Some confusion surrounded the digging of the hole and where the memorial service should be held. At least I was confused. But things get done. Maxi Hunter’s son ventured out in the heat with a posthole digger and chopped out of the hard red clay a hole about three feet across all ways and maybe a bit more than that down. Very sufficient for the old man’s box. A bit of outdoor carpet covered the mound of excavated dirt and a doormat was placed to the side of the hole to protect the knees of the person who put the box into the hole.
People had spoken of having the memorial service hole-side ; but wiser heads prevailed and the service was done in the chapel of the little church. Thank goodness, for given the length of the service, one justified by the weight of the occasion and dictated by the rules of the ritual, we all would have completely wilted away, most especially the Reverend who upon our meeting apologized for his inclination towards prespiring.
The chapel of the tiny church build in the late 1800s was overall as I remembered it, though the pews had been replaced with thicker, stronger ones, the floor had been carpeted, and up front, looking completely and metallically out of place were some stereo speakers. I was happy to see that the bulletin boards announcing the readings and songs for a particular Sunday service had not changed at all. Just boards with wooden slots in which one might slip plastic letters and numbers, like the way they used to announce movies though much smaller. The Reverend had asked the congregation about updating those, but was told not to touch them. I always as a kid looked at them first to see what songs were up for the day, my favorites being “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Rock of Ages.”
After the service proper and the reception organized by the Ladies of the Church the many Tingles and ken present gathered hole-side for some very brief words by the good Reverend, who had previously been an insurance salesman. Those done, I was prompted by a nod from the Reverend to announce that was all unless people wanted to dare sun stroke. As the others drifted off, my brother and I lingered by the hole and the box of ashes sitting atop a bit of furniture, an end-table perhaps. My brother said he wanted to put the old man in the hole as I had expected he might, and so he went off and fetched a shovel from the parsonage.
My brother knelt on the doormat and settled the box firmly in place, and then we took turns, my brother, his son, another nephew, and me, shoveling the earth back into the hole. Mostly the youngest, my brother’s son, did it. My one shovel full was purely symbolic.