A Great Send Off
Although she was legally blind, she was of sound mind and in good health and stayed that way until just a few months before her death this past Saturday morning, October 19, 2013, when at 6 AM she departed this world with accordion in hand to add some “real life” to the heavens above. On another sheet she had left with me, she wrote of herself,” Nelma was always ready with accordion in hand to sing and entertain at parties, nursing homes and social functions and special holidays. She had an extraordinary zest for life till the end and enjoyed good music, a good laugh, playing cards with her many friends and being involved in her church and community.” Wow!
Nelma was very much loved by her family and they saw that her every wish was honored (except for the earrings to match her nice dress which I remembered and provided. I swear she smiled when I put them on her.) She was not to be viewed publically but she was “all dolled up just liked she liked to be. Let me say now, if I live to be 101 years of age and look that great, please bring everyone in to see me! I was very pleased that her family came to the funeral home to see her before the burial and they were pleased that they did, too.
For some reason it has become the custom at the Shushan Presbyterian Church to have the burial first followed by a memorial service. I don’t remember ever taking a casket into that church and I do admit it is easier. Many churches were not built with funerals in mind and this is one of those. So we set up the flowers around the wonderful Memory Portrait which showed the 19 year old Nelma in shorts-she was the first girl in Shushan to wear shorts- and the picture taken this past August at her 101 birthday celebration.
Nelma’s accordion was placed right in front of her portrait. The stage was set.
The Reverend Debbie Earthrowl is wonderful minister and celebrant. She brings love and laughter and life to the funerals that she does. Yes, she knew Nelma, but even when she doesn’t know a person, she spends time with a family and gets to know their loved one. No just reading of the obituary for her.
So with a church filled with family and friends, Nelma was given the sendoff she had planned. Her requested songs were sung by the appointed singers, both whom she had asked to so years before. Her son had found an accordion player-not an easy task these days-who with his wife on fiddle played “Be Still MY Soul” by Jean Sibelius a Finnish composer. There were two incredible eulogies, the first by the daughter of Nem’s friend of 88 years and the second by a younger friend and caregiver. Rev. Earthrowl’s chosen readings and words were perfect, even when she gave us the news “that Jesus was a party animal”. Nem loved a good joke, so when the time of sharing was concluded with the sharing of one about the drunk being baptized in the river, the church was filled with laughter. And then the final topping on the cake, as they say. All were standing for the Benediction when the Noon Whistle in the fire house right next door went off completely filling the air with deafening sound and vibration!!! When all was silent, Rev. Earthrowl gave the Benediction and the congregation, just as Nem’s had asked for, joined together in singing “God Bless America, accompanied by the accordion. A luncheon immediately followed.
There are funerals and there are good funerals. When this was one over we all knew we had witnessed and participated in a Great Funeral (technically a memorial service)-a wonderful send off.
Too many people say that when they die they don’t want any kind of service. They don’t want to burden or inconvenience anyone. They don’t understand that the final gathering of family and friends gives the family and friends one last time to show and share love. Taking the time to remember and honor a life lived and to say good bye is not a burden or inconvenience. It is a privilege. Nelma Keiski McLenithan understood this and so did her family and they gave Nelma a wonderful send off.
I was honored to be part of it.
You can read Nelma’s obituary at www.ackleyrossfuneralhome.com.
Because I “am in the business”, I am always making plans and changing those plans for my own funeral. Have you thought about yours? We all deserve a great sendoff!