“Amazing Grace …”

The air in the cemetery has a late Fall crispness though the sun is bright this afternoon in mid-November. There is the smell of fresh cut grass as more cars begin to pull into the driveway near the gravesite. Many of the graves in this section of the cemetery have flowers, both real and artificial, many more are undecorated, their occupants too long gone to have someone left in town to tend to their memories.

“how sweet the sound …”

We gather at the small cluster of chairs in front of the coffin. It is the plainest, least ornate coffin we could find: smoothly finished oak or pine, not shiny and ostentatious like so many the funeral parlor had on display. My brother would appreciate the craftsmanship of the woodwork. On top of the coffin, instead of flowers, are a set of spurs, a lariat, a bolo, and a cowboy hat. Pieces of my brother’s life that represent him far better than a spray of lilies would. He was a horseman, a father, a son. He was a hard drinker; an angry, damaged man. He was hard to deal with. He was sometimes impossible to like. He was funny and smart. He was loved.

“that saved a wretch like me …”

We have no minister present, just family and his closest friends. In a few minutes, some of us will speak, a prayer, a poem, a couple of songs will be sung. But for now there is just the rustling of a light breeze through the orange grove nearby, the shuffle of feet as we start to settle in front of the coffin, preparing to say  goodbye to this man who died too young after a life-hard lived.