Cowpies in the Funeral Home

June 25, 2006 | 14 comments
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We held a small viewing in Eagar, Arizona, the morning before we buried Betsey in the cemetery there. We were a little irritated by two prints in the funeral home, one a painting of a grossly fat cowboy trying to hit a golfball off a cowpie, called ‘Chip Shot,’ and the other of two cowboys playing golf about to be startled by a rattlesnake.

We’ve just come back from a family reunion out there, where we heard the story behind those prints. It seems that one of the two local artists who has achieved any success has done it with these paintings of cowboys playing golf. The local people are pretty proud of him, and my second-cousin-once-removed, besides being the town manager, does a lot of the framing for him. Understanding those prints as local pride instead of unalloyed bad taste let us put aside the residue of the irritation we had felt at the viewing.

After the reunion we went to Betsey’s grave. We had been talking about ‘going to see Betsey’ for a bit, and apparently our Emma misunderstood us. On the way there she said several times that she was going to “Betsey’s house.” After we got to the grave, and prayed, and put down some wildflowers we’d picked, Emma kept looking around and finally, having figured things out to her own satisfaction and looking for confirmation, told us, “we’re waiting for Betsey, huh?” I guess she thought Betsey was going to come meet us there. We both tried to explain things to her but she gave us a dark, wild look that’s hard to interpret. 100 miles down the road she figured out why Betsey hadn’t come, and told us: “Betsey didn’t hear us, huh?” We didn’t know what to say. Today she told her aunt that we had gone to visit Betsey’s flowers.

Betsey’s favorite cousin, too, will sometimes talk about Betsey being in heaven and sometimes insist, frantically, that Betsey’s just in the hospital. What can one say?

14 Responses to Cowpies in the Funeral Home

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 25, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    I only wish I knew.

  2. Rosalynde Welch on June 26, 2006 at 2:01 am

    We would go to the cemetery often in the early years, usually on Sunday afternoons—though nobody was ever required or pressured to come—and we developed a little family ritual that sounds like yours: we’d clean off the bronze marker, replace the flowers, then sit together on the steep hill and sing songs, always including Jacob’s favorite, and ending with prayer. Then we’d just sit around a talk, or take the little ones for a walk. No tears required, and often none were shed.

  3. elizabeth on June 26, 2006 at 4:48 am

    When my son was just three years old we were still living with his dad in Croatia.
    My sons grandmother died and I just did not know how to explain it to him. His father was not a big help in that so I had to think of something.

    What I told my son was that his Baka ( grandma) went to sleep because she had to much pain.
    Jesus wanted her to rest . And we would bring her to a special place where she has a nice bed to sleep.
    Since the inlaws are catolic and lived in a smal traditional town it was commen to have candles and lit them.
    So I told my son we would place candles with the specail bed so the angels will know where she is resting and they will look afther her.
    So when all the people left we put our candles and talked in dutch to each other and he said mama now the angels know where baka is and they can look afther her and she can rest and have no more pain.

    Two weeks later his beloved Puppy died and his father had left to work. Because it was very warm I could not leave the puppy outside , so I needed to burry it.
    I called my son’s father to find out how deep in needed to be so the wild animals will not dig it out.

    My son and I did the same ritual. WE put the puppy in the grave with his favorite blanket and toys.
    We put send over it and we placed flowers and sang songs. and litt some candles
    Afther that once in a while he wanted to go there and put flowers.

    My son is seven now and we have moved back to Holland about 4 years ago but is still talking about his puppy and how we burried him.

    Maybe you need to search for books nowadays they have great books for kids about a death in the family. It can help you .

    Ofcourse I do not know how old your daugther is or her relationship to Betsey.

    It is hard and not a easy situation , so wish you all the insight you need for this.

    Elizabeth ( from Holland)

  4. Wacky Hermit on June 26, 2006 at 9:21 am

    We’ve never had much trouble explaining to our kids about death. Most of the trouble we’ve had is in explaining to them why the relatives are fighting over the inheritance. You’d think little kids would understand fighting over material goods, but they just don’t seem to grasp why grownups would do it.

  5. annegb on June 26, 2006 at 9:54 am

    I’m with Stephen. Kids really don’t understand that sort of thing when they’re small.

    Sarah was born thirteen years after her first brothers death and by that point, my grief was fairly personal. But when James died, when she was five, she was there to experience all of it. She doesn’t like to visit his grave and I don’t push her.

    But her brothers are very real to her. She feels protected somehow by her two older brothers. She’s said she feels they help give her blessings.

    That was sort of off topic, Adam. Emma will grow to understand. Not like you understand, but because of your love for Betsey, she will be real in Emma’s life, in her own way. My neighbor often speaks of her older sister, Nancy Lee, who died almost 60 years ago, before she was born.
    Her mother, of course, never forgot her child, and my neighbor feels a kinship with this sister she didn’t meet.

  6. costanza on June 26, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    “Understanding those prints as local pride instead of unalloyed bad taste let us put aside the residue of the irritation we had felt at the viewing.” You are a better man than I, Adam. Local talent or not, it’s still a pretty tacky display for a funeral home. Nevertheless, you are right in letting it go.

  7. DKL on June 26, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Death is a hard thing to deal with at any age. My father once told me that he never felt like an adult until both of his parents were dead. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s the natural and proper order of things, just like birth or marriage or sickness. I can’t see any harm in just being frank about it.

    I think that it’s also important to recognize that feeling inconsolable sorrow about some things is also part of the natural and proper order of things, and when a child feels it, it doesn’t constitute emotional trauma.

  8. CEF on June 26, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Hello Adam,

    I happen to know the artist and his wife very well. Both are members of the Church and are some of the nicest and most humble people I have ever met. And yes, Russel has done very well with his paintings, and I am sure the locals are very proud of him. Perhaps this will help you to turn loose of the issue also.

    I am deeply sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  9. queuno on June 26, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    I think that very young children may have a hard time understanding, but by about age 4, they seem to get it. That was about the age when my children visited the grave of their uncle and we talked about his life.

  10. CS Eric on June 26, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    We’ve never been back to the graves. My wife wouldn’t be able to stand it. Being alone on Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day makes her cry for a week already. I think it would be therapeutic, but she isn’t ready.

  11. Jim F. on June 26, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Understanding those prints as local pride instead of unalloyed bad taste let us put aside the residue of the irritation we had felt at the viewing.

    The more personally we know people, the more diffficult it is to look down on what they do or have done. If that is true of sin (and I think it is), then surely it is even more true of tackiness, which is only an affront to our aesthetics rather than affront to God.

  12. costanza on June 26, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    That’s a nice analogy Jim.

  13. jjohnsen on June 28, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    “I guess she thought Betsey was going to come meet us there. We both tried to explain things to her but she gave us a dark, wild look that’s hard to interpret. 100 miles down the road she figured out why Betsey hadn’t come, and told us: “Betsey didn’t hear us, huh?â€? We didn’t know what to say. Today she told her aunt that we had gone to visit Betsey’s flowers.”
    Wow, that is heartbreaking.

    MY nephew died when he was one. At the time my daughter didn’t really understand, she thought he was still in the hospital no matter how many times we tried to explain. When she saw a picture of him she’d ask when we were going to visit him again in the hospital. She was almost 4 at the time. Now she’s almost six and understands his brain was sick and he died and went to wait for us with HF. I think it’s just a maturity they reach when they understand life can end.

  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 28, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    What is heart breaking is when they ask you when will they die, since everyone else has, and will they die soon so they don’t have to be left alone when the rest of the family is gone.

    Or when they turn eighteen and break down sobbing, that they wish they had died with their sisters.

WELCOME

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