The sun is sinking. I glance out the corner window in Vernon’s shop. I am reminded of the auction we held here just a few months ago. Then the visitation line moves. My gaze moves the other direction and downward, onto the old familiar face lying in the casket. Freeman S. has passed on.
I look my last. Of course, we’ll hardly remember Freeman’s face like this. Rather, the perpetually grinning, sparkly eyed, belly laughing Freeman S. is the one who will be lodged in our memory.
The line shuffles forward, shaking hands and murmuring a few words with Freeman’s close relatives who are seated facing each other over a narrow aisle. And then, right behind the family, visible without being conspicuous, is the community.
This community is the one that turned out in huge numbers in March when Vernon had his farm auction. Now it’s 12 weeks later and Vernon is burying his father. The community is here again.
When I read the obituary today, I was surprised to see how small Freeman’s family is. He had two daughters and two sons — small by our standards. Usually, it is large families that lend themselves to large auctions and large weddings, church services, baptismals and funerals. There is no large family here. But there is support all over the place.
There is LeRoy with his wife. He lives across the fields, owns a woodworking business and loves playing Rook. His daughters are students of Freeman’s grandson Calvin. There are Elmer and Alice, from a few miles up the road in Honeyville. They work at the same local sale barn that Freeman worked at. Over yonder stand Tim and Violet. They live in the same Michigan community as Freeman’s daughter Polly.
We’ve heard people say, “We don’t fully realize what we have here until something tragic happens to our family.” Freeman died yesterday morning. Help poured in from neighbors and friends who abandoned their plans for Saturday and came to make preparations for a funeral. I wasn’t there, but Calvin tells me the barn was cleaned, floors were swept, things were moved, the shop was washed and a tent was put up. I’ve seen it happen in our neighborhood, too.