My Father in-law Ennis Day was born and raised on the outskirts of Grayson Kentucky, a small country village with a stagnated population of about four thousand people. It remains a modern day Mayberry, albeit one with the accouterments of a Kmart and a half-dozen payday loans outlets. Little else has changed in the last 50 years, until a few weeks ago. In a squeaker of a vote, the residents of Grayson voted to allow the sale of alcohol in their town, so ending their hold out as a ‘dry’ county. It’s a subject that has deeply divided the population of Grayson – a town that may as well be the buckle in the Bible Belt. Church going residents, many of who are tobacco farmers by trade (something that always struck me as ironic) were steadfast in their opposition. Business folks on the other hand saw the lost revenue as people bypassed their exit on the interstate for the neighboring village where a wider variety of restaurants had established themselves. Aside from the alcohol issue, which always struck me as more of a surprise than an inconvenience, Grayson has always seemed a town from another era; an easy place to poke fun at and envy at the same time. They may feel like they have progressed. From my vantage point, we could use a little regress.
Ennis Day was a quiet, unassuming man. He had a small group of loyal friends from church and work but most times he preferred to maintain his own company. When he passed away I was not sure what to expect at his funeral. That the service was full to the brim was a statement on Ennis, and how folks who met him felt about him. Virtually everyone who knew him was there and made a point of conveying their condolences to his daughter. The funeral spoke volumes about Ennis…and the ride to the cemetery that followed spoke volumes about the community. Never exceeding 25 miles an hour, the hearse wound its way through the countryside to the family cemetery. Cars pulled over to the side of the road and not in the fashion to which I had been accustomed…where drivers pull over impatiently, one foot on the brake the other poised on the accelerator. These cars pulled over, the drivers stepped out of their vehicles, cap on their chest as the hearse rolled by. Farmers got off their tractors and did the same. At first I thought, “wow, he knew a lot of people.” But all the people who knew him were at the service back in town. These folks were strangers paying their respects to a man they did not know-simply because that is what you do when one of your own passes away. Something struck me as profoundly right about that, and I will never forget it. Nor will I ever feel quite as smug about our way of life.
The practicality of hopping out of your car when a funeral procession passes is dubious in a larger town like Guelph – admittedly it’s probably a good way to expedite your own funeral. Paying our respects to the living however, should not be so hard.
Thanks for reading,