Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Epples' Funeral

I think I can do this now.

Bluebonnet and I took a train from Richmond to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon (November 23) to be able to be there. My father met us, having left my mother and a friend from the PEO chapter working feverishly on photo collages to use at the reception after the service. Father had done "tech support" in scanning and printing myriad pictures so that the collages could potentially go to Missouri for the subsequent services there. Nancy's mother had sent a number of older photos of a younger and exceedingly gorgeous Nancy, which ended up occupying most of the frames my parents own.
Mother's and Nancy's (and my, formerly) PEO chapter also took on the task of dessert for the service; that was a monumental task! We had no idea how many people to prepare for, but in the end probably served a couple hundred. The funeral itself was moved from the smaller Episcopal church to the much larger Catholic church, and and funeral directors rented the parish hall in the basement for our reception.
I spent part of Monday morning visiting and helping at the pediatrics office. Having worked for the Epples off and on during vacations for several years, I really found I belonged to both the "friends" and "office" category. I felt like I needed to do something there, where they're hit the hardest. I was glad to hear that several other pediatricians in the area have been helping, seeing patients, etc; there will be some legalities that may be complicated since the Epples were the sole owners of the practice. Meanwhile, Mother and Bluebonnet bought paper products and got things lined up for the afternoon.
Thankfully, my father-in-law was able to come to my parents' house mid-afternoon so Mother and I could get to the church to help set up. It was not quite 2:45 when we arrived and already people were streaming through to pay their respects. This was a closed-casket funeral, so it was termed "calling" rather than a viewing. We ran around setting up in an unfamiliar church (with some assistance from members of the parish). Eventually we all found a few rows in the front of the sanctuary, but I'm not sure how many of us PEOs went through the line. That line stretched out the door and down the sidewalk half a block, for over three hours.
Lawrence had a longrunning shtick of making balloon animals; most of the folks who work there have also learned to make them. They made quite a few for the children and young people, Lawrence's patients, to take at the funeral. Some laid them on the caskets, and others took them along. It was seeing that, a little girl of about 8 holding one, that made me fall apart in tears the first time. Otherwise I held it together until we left the church.
Many of the women wore interesting clothes that Nancy would have liked, or in several cases, wore jewelry that she'd given them. Several men paid extra homage to Lawrence by wearing funny ties (Donald Duck, crayons, etc.).
The service was a high Episcopal mass, which felt like a Catholic mass in which it was acceptable for a Presbyterian to take part! There were a few laughs over some of the stories told- you had to know the Epples and the way things just happened with them, and everyone knew some of those stories!
This is never something I would have expected we'd have to do. There's a member of the PEO chapter who turned 103 this year, and I can only imagine how strange she feels about outliving someone like Nancy, fifty years her junior. Tonight the chapter was meeting. The Christmas meeting was always wonderful, but I imagine it was sad tonight, with a gaping hole in the roll call and the room.

2 comments:

topaztook said...

I'm so sorry to hear of this loss. I've been to one of those everyone-in-town-comes funerals, and I know how draining it can be.

(I came over to respond to your comment to my comment about children's books, but it doesn't look like this is an appropriate time for that discussion.)

Wenonah4th said...

I'm perfectly happy to discuss the books; why else would I have said so? :-)

Seriously, as hard as it is, the best tribute to dear Nancy and Lawrence is to go on living, all the more wholeheartedly, just as they did (although I don't think anyone since Scarlett O'Hara has had their "passion for living"!)