A scorching August sun bore down on the small South Texas town of Fulton the afternoon of Connie’s funeral. Not even the gentle gulf breeze gave much comfort to those gathered in the small community church that day. Mourners filled the coarse wooden pews, greeted with the words “We Remember Momma” prominently displayed on the massive white screen behind the alter. A resounding recording of Elvis singing “Old Rugged Cross” consoled them as they waited in silence for the service to begin. These were Connie’s family; blood and church. She loved all the same.
Like a thief in the night, I furtively took my seat in the back of the church. I saw no one I knew. The distance of time erased whatever memory I had of familiar faces. Connie slept peacefully in her steel gray coffin, shrouded with a spray of tiger lilies and baby’s breath. How many years had it been since she and I had last seen each other? More years than I cared to count.
As Elvis crooned his final stanza, the preacher, an older gentleman with a white-beard in a black suit, stood before us. We hung on each word as he extolled Connie’s virtues. Little was said of her vices.
“Church was Connie’s life and her redemption,” he said, “a true believer who woke each day with one thought: What could she do to further God’s work.”
I don’t know about that, but I do know she fried the best fish.