It is October 30th, the last day of the regular season at Redbud Creek Farm. The Farm has been open every day since mid April except for July 4th, and though the end of the growing season is at hand, there is still a little reluctance in letting it go. Nancy and I are not present for the final day. Our friend, Jim Evans, who has been aware of inoperable lung cancer for five years, has finally succumbed at the age of 72. Today is his funeral.
Jim’s funeral mass is everything a final formal religious service can be and a lot more. Jim was pretty active in his church and was well liked and appreciated for his generous spirit, humility, and simple faith. Jim planned the funeral service about nine months before he died, including readings and songs that had an extra dimension that communicated his appreciation for his family and friends while subtly inviting them to follow the God whom he obviously felt had richly blessed his time. I was touched by Jim Evan’s faith. I felt various hints throughout the service that this was not just the faith of a person who was raised in a religious home and simply stayed true to those basic precepts. Rather I felt here the dynamic faith of a person who experienced a lot of life, whose victories and especially scars, deepened and broadened his spiritual understanding. Jim included Albert Malotte’s Our Father in his service. Now I am sure he did not grow up with that piece of music, but became cognizant of it at his parish in his late middle age, before it dropped out of favor with the parish’s music gurus. It occurs to me that this piece of music with its spare, somewhat contemplative treatment of the basic foundations of the prayer; acceptance and appreciation of life’s flow, and hope for daily bread, forgiveness, guidance, and deliverance, leading to a soaring crescendo on kingdom, power, and glory was the melody of Jim Evan’s life.
From Jim’s church a long string of cars processes to a cemetery that has been in use since the mid 1800s. In a setting that is dramatically picturesque the priest begins the final prayers and rituals at the gravesite. The huge mature trees are still largely full of colorful leaves, though the strong breeze is scattering dozens of them by the minute. The leaves billow from the trees and fall not quite silently in an almost literal and instant answer to the beseeching clergyman’s plea for blessing. The sky is so blue, the grass so verdant, and the shadows are deep and cool beneath the ancient trees with their vivid leaves. To alleviate a shiver, one steps from shadow into the sun, and basks in clear celestial light and regales in radiant warmth. It takes some time to inter the casket and I think about Jim, and I rejoice in these quiet minutes of beauty and know that by tomorrow the wonderful trees of this place will be mostly leafless silhouettes, so apropos for Halloween.
After the service Nancy and I return home. We will be taking dinner to Jim’s family tomorrow night. Knowing that the two college age boys are big fans of our barbecued baby back ribs, we decide that we will build our meal around that and I set about getting this accomplished. It is a simple task that I know well, a perfect activity to consider things. My mind keeps coming to the moment of Jim’s death. Apparently he was finally ready to die but continued to resist. At last his wife went to him and told him that it was alright, she and the boys were ready, and it seemed like he was ready too. And for the final time he followed her direction. As the lovely afternoon continues to unfold I watch the pungent smoke wafting from the little opening in the barbecue cooker’s lid. The smoke is very light and it drifts on the breeze like the illustrator’s conception of a genie coming out of a bottle. I see it as a kind of counterpoint to the leaves of blessing being showered down upon us at the cemetery. Indeed, my prayers rise like incense.
Nancy talks to Phyllis at the Farm. It turns out that the final day of the regular season results in several customer visits and a few fairly significant sales. Of course we could have used a few more significant sales through the fall, but the season has ended, and on a little bit of a high note. So we shall move on, hopeful, that businesswise we can improve and that our customers and friends will weather the economic vicissitudes that vex us. With friends like Jim Evans, and seasonal zeniths like today, we are refreshed and ready for the next season that begins tomorrow.