Thursday, November 27, 2008
Visitation and funeral services are typically a reunion, too.
Pam and I made a trip to Hamilton, Ala., Wednesday night of last week due to a death. My cousin Gerald Burleson died at age 66. He had suffered through various health-related problems over the years. He battled and battled.
My growing-up memories of Gerald are special ones. He, too, loved sports. He shared my love for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Everyone was at the visitation first and foremost to offer their sympathy and support to his wife Shirley and children Mark, Paige and Matt. They’re good folks and not just because they’re Burlesons.
But just as Gerald would have wanted, I’m sure, those there mourning his death also shared lots of smiles and laughs.
The first person I hugged when I walked into Hamilton Funeral Home was Mark. Of Gerald’s children, he’s the closest to my age.
I did ask him, “Now are you 45?”
He quickly replied, “43.”
It seems like yesterday Mark and I were playing church league softball together for Hamilton Church of Christ. We had some good teams, and it was fun sharing the experience with my cousin.
Standing nearby, and I actually had to do a double take, were three cousins who I had not seen in far too long. It was so good to talk with Kim, Kay and Kathy – sisters who grew up in Childersburg, Ala., near Birmingham.
We used to have Burleson reunions at my Mom and Pop’s house. But we stopped one year and never started them back. The property has since been sold and I still regret I didn’t buy it.
Those were special times – sitting under the big shade tree or wading in the creek or climbing into the loft of the barn.
We talked last week about renewing the reunions at a different location. They won’t be the same, because they won’t be at the old Burleson homeplace. But it’s still something we need to do.
I met Mark’s wife, Paige’s husband and Matt’s wife for the first time.
Uncle Mack and Aunt Kay, on the Frederick side of my family, are two of my favorites. I moved quickly for two more hugs when I saw them sitting on the front row in the funeral home parlor. Thank goodness, Pam and I were able to sit down with them later and “catch up” and share some laughs.
Mother wasn’t there yet, but I told Mack that she told me to stay around until she got there.
“And at age 47 I still have to do what my mother says,” I said.
Mack, her younger brother said, with a grin – “She still comes by the house and gives me my marching orders, too.”
I saw former high school classmates.
Ann McRoy West and I talked about a possible 30-year reunion next year. We graduated together from Hamilton High School in 1979. She said plans call for having the reunion in conjunction with the annual Alumni Banquet.
Pam and I visited with Bill and Joyce Loden. Their family owned Loden Furniture in downtown Hamilton and I guess every piece of furniture I ever rested on or ate off of growing up came from there.
Pam and I joked with them, too, about a microwave we just ditched a couple of weeks ago. I bought it from Loden’s about 22 years ago when I left Hamilton and first moved to Mississippi. We had 20-plus-year-old furniture from there, too, which we just tossed away, too.
“We got our money’s worth,” I said.
I saw many good people from Barn Creek Church of Christ, the congregation that helped raise me.
I talked football with Ryan Hollingsworth, new county superintendent of education, and brother of former Alabama quarterback Gary Hollingsworth; Roger Ellis, a former high school baseball teammate; and coach Mark Dearen, now an insurance agent.
There were others – can’t mention them all. They all rekindled my appreciation for the place I grew up and will always call “home.”
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