Last Tuesday, I took a drive to God’s country to pay my respects to one of His newest angels. My friend couldn’t have been laid to rest in a more heavenly spot. Aurora, West Virginia, which is on Route 50 in Preston County, is pretty enough, but if you turn onto Stemple Ridge Road and drive, and drive some more, you will see that it is truly heaven’s gate. It simply takes your breath away.
Driving to Preston County. I had an hour to reflect on the goodbyes I’ve had to say in recent months. My friend, Kay, died just before Christmas. We had been friends since 7th grade and had many wild and crazy adventures as young adults. She honored me by agreeing to be one of the bridesmaids in my wedding. I hadn’t seen her for a long time but there are some people who are most comfortable in a small, cozy world, and I knew that about her. After we both got married, her life-focus shifted from friends to family. Some of us could learn from her example. I will always be grateful for the years she included me in her circle. They were feel-good years and the memories make me smile.
Just after the first of the year, I lost another friend. Dave came into my life when he married Kathy, another of my 7th grade classmates who became a long-time friend. She was also a bridesmaid in my wedding and I returned the favor for her a couple of years later when she and Dave got married. I will miss him chiming in on our phone calls. The poor guy had to listen to a lot of them over the years. I remember one time when we had met for dinner, he started laughing, and by the time we’d settled down, we all had tears rolling down our cheeks.
The funeral on Stemple Ridge was for the father of my all-time favorite student. As a Vietnam War veteran, Randy was given full military honors. During the presentation of the flag to his widow, I cried. When they played Taps, I cried. Then they played the song Go Rest High on That Mountain and I cried again. I was a soggy mess by the time I left.
Driving back along Stemple Ridge Road, I did what I always do when I’m an emotional wreck. I ate. On my way to the church, I’d gotten a piece of blueberry flapjack cake from Melanie’s Diner. It was vanilla cake with blueberries, layered with a light maple-flavored whipped cream. Thank goodness they’d included a fork! It was definitely medicinal.
On a sugar high, I found myself humming a song we’d sang at the funeral. Before I got down the first mountain, I was singing The Little Brown Church in the Vale out loud. It may be my new favorite hymn because a little brown church seems to be just a few steps beyond normal.