Right up until the end of her life, Hazel was strong and sassy and full of the spark that comes from having weathered nine decades of a life stitched together with threads of sadness and joy.
She had lost one son who was only two years old, and another daughter who was in her fifties. She also buried her husband and weathered numerous other storms throughout her ninety-two years of life.
Hazel was always known for being a looker and for being fastidious about her appearance; in fact, even as she lay peacefully in her casket, she was arrayed in a lace gown, complemented by a string of pearls and matching nail polish.
As lovely and ladylike as Hazel always appeared, she was no shrinking violet. Stories are told of her sitting on her back porch, seeing some birds in the distance, and grabbing a shotgun to shoot herself some dinner. Hazel’s hands—with their color coordinated manicure—could handle a gun with the best of them. You did not mess with Hazel!
Hazel’s son, Charles, is a long time member of our church and he asked Steve to preach his mom’s funeral yesterday afternoon. The funeral was held graveside and thankfully the weather cooperated beautifully–clear, sunny, in the 50’s. A perfect Carolina winter day.
As Steve, Sarah and I walked toward the funeral tent, we ran into an acquaintance who was singing at the funeral.
He was stuck on one particular chord in his song and asked Steve for some assistance.
When the time came for him to sing, he did a beautiful job of it, his clear voice ringing out over the crowd of people who had come to pay their final respects to Miss Hazel.
Steve shared some stories about Hazel . . .
. . . both serious and funny.
And when he spoke the ancient words, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust . . .” I felt tears prick my eyes as I stood under the blue sky with a community of people bound together by love and respect for a grand old lady who had lived life well.
When the brief service was over, we all spent some time hugging, chatting, and visiting in truest Southern fashion.
It was especially nice for Steve and me to have Sarah with us for the afternoon; although she doesn’t attend all the funerals that we’re involved in, this one was special to her since she and Charles have worked together on the tech team at church for three years. He always makes their work fun because he’s got a great sense of humor and enjoys teasing her.
Sarah and Mary Ann (the associate/youth pastor at our church) posed for a Lovely Ladies in Hats photo.
After we had visited with folks for a while, we headed back to our van . . .
. . . and as we walked, I couldn’t help but notice the trees scattered throughout the cemetery.
It occurred to me that cemetery trees stand like faithful, friendly sentinels, standing watch over the dearly departed after everyone has gone home.
There was one tree that especially caught my eye. It looked like it had been there for a long time and had weathered some hard things– maybe even a lightning strike or two.
But it was still standing.
And I thought about how that tree was a poignant illustration of Miss Hazel’s life. Throughout the storms and lightning strikes that pummeled her years, her unspoken motto was, “I may be a little worse for the wear and I may have a few battle scars but I’m still standing.”
And today, as her family and friends have left her alone to rest under a beautiful Carolina blue sky, that silent, scarred sentry is still there, still keeping watch above her . . . still standing.