Jerry Patton is the grandson of Oliver Smith (a preacher from the Oklahoma Followers of Christ). He and his wife of 27 years, Paula Renee, live in Arkansas. He is a software engineer by day and an Elder/Shepherd for his church. Patton has written two previous guest blogs: Oregon City Baptism and Who Can Baptize? Here, Patton recounts an unforgettable event from his time in the Oregon City FOC Church.
I am nine years old. It is a typical gray day in Oregon City – a Saturday I think. As your typical nine-year-old boy, I’m a bit oblivious to grown-up things. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do after we get done with the church thing.
I’m holding my mother’s hand as we walk into the church building with my Aunt Syb and Uncle George. We pass through the wood paneled foyer and into the auditorium. Everything seems so gray – the carpet, the walls, the clothes, the faces – some with tears, some with red eyes, some with nothing. We’re walking down the center aisle towards something. There are some folks ahead of us. They stop. So do we. They move on, out of the way and then there it is – a light pearl beige periwinkle casket.
I am absolutely horrified. Terror. I cannot breathe. My blood runs cold. Mother moves a little closer, but I’m frozen – I’m close enough. I’ve never seen death – real death. After what seemed too long, we go sit down. We are sitting about 15 rows back and to the right of the casket near the far end of the pew. Everything is gray. The florescent lights make his eye- glasses glow. I sit there and gather myself – glancing over at the two lenses glowing in the lights and then my eyes move smartly back. After ten minutes or so my Uncle asks me if I need to go make another visit to the body. Are you kidding? I’m good. I’ll make it right here. I really don’t even care to be in the same room with that thing over there.
We go to the cemetery; Carus cemetery. It is gray and gloomy and raining one of those typical not-about-to-stop-raining-buckets showers. The pall-bearers unload the casket and take it to the grave and sit it before the family. Someone says some words. People are crying. They sing a song. I look over at my Uncle Dale and Uncle Ivan – they are struggling not to cry – and barely succeeding. A man steps forward and stabs the metal grave marker into the ground. I glance at the faces and listen to their grief. I look at the casket and back to my uncles as they sing. When it’s over, folks visit with one another and then leave. We went and ate somewhere, but I don’t remember where it was. I was still processing what I had just seen.
For the next – the rest of my life – I think about that day here and there and never forget: something natural, something ghastly and how gray everything was.