My Father's Many Funerals


My father, 
superintendent turned gardener
in his retirement,
attended nearly every funeral
over his lifetime of losses in our 
small southern town

'We must pay our respects,'
as bulletin in hand,
he sang farewell hymns
passed down from generations
of farewells chainlinked before us.

At age 83 he joined them,
the dry, warm seeds
for that spring's
planting, abandoned

A thumbnail of mourners,
I told myself.
No gathering suitable for
final respects he cradled
as diamonds in value.

The limo snailed up the steep hill
towards that tiny brick church 
where my father
had taught Sunday School,
served as elder,
taken communion,
bowed head in prayer
Front pew
Same seat every Sunday.

Edging over the rise.
the limo offered first
steeple, roofs.
Hundreds of car roofs.
A garden of color spilling
from parking lot into field.
Standing room only.

Respect, my father's winter harvest.
Our town's final gift.

Later, at my parents' home, I tucked
my father's seeds into pocket
to carry to my own home
for next season's planting.

I feel sure that he knew.

Pris Campbell

In memory of my were the best!

Published in The Dead Mule, An Anthology of Southern Literature,
Fall, 2002.

Music: I've Got Peace Like A River

Photograph: R.C. Campbell
 Pageland, South Carolina

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