The day Bobbie Sue Peabody died, the ladies of the St. Peter’s Ladies Auxilliary got the word through the phone tree.
Daisy Stonewood, the church secretary got the news from The Rev. Trip Hansford III, who called Daisy at the church office moments after Bobbie Sue breathed her last at the Magnolia Rest Home.
Daisy called Anne Stringer and relayed the news.
When’s the funeral? Anne asked, even before she expressed any sympathy on the passing of Bobbie Sue.
Daisy told Anne The Rev Hansford was going to meet with Bobbie Sue’s second cousin Bubba, her only relative, tomorrow afternoon.
Oh, lordy sighed Anne. I hope he doesn’t choose Saturday. You know that’s the Florida- Georgia game and nobody’s going to come to a funeral on one of the biggest Saturdays in college football.
Daisy told her The Reverend had tickets to the game, so she doubted the funeral would be Saturday.
Anyway, we don’t know if she wants to be cremated or buried, she didn’t fill out a “My Last Wishes” funeral planning book, that was given to all parishioners over the age of 60.
Oh, shoot, what a pain Bobbie Sue is, exclaimed Anne. She was so durned stubborn. Never wanted to admit she was growing old. Why she would still be driving her ancient Cadillac down these country roads, if she hadn’t fallen and broken her hip last summer.
It’s a problem, said Daisy. Now we are going to be scrambling to get this funeral planned.
They both hung up with a sigh.
Two days later the funeral was going forward. Bubba proved efficient in making plans to make Bobbie Sue’s Celebration of Life easy for everyone involved. Bobbie Sue would be cremated since she never purchased a new funeral plot after she divorced her husband, the no good Clay Goodbread Jr. Clay’s trophy wife, Brenda, was resting beside her husband decades earlier than she planned, following a birthday celebration in which Clay got stone drunk on whiskey sours and drove his car into a tree while arguing with Brenda about his ability to drive under the influence of a “couple of drinks.”
So Bobbie Sue ashes would be taken back to Mississippi with Bubba and buried next to her parents in the family plot.
The phone tree was again employed to begin planning the reception after the service. Anne called the rest of the ladies of the Auxillary and they in turn called the woman in Bobbie Sue’s prayer circle and the Altar Guild. There would be plenty of savories at the reception. Ham biscuits, pimento cheese and chicken salad finger sandwiches, lemon squares, brownies and of course, stuffed eggs.
Now the stuffed eggs became a source of tension among the ladies of the guild and the auxiliary ladies.
It seems both groups had a different recipe for stuffed eggs. The guild ladies made a sweeter stuffed egg, and the auxiliary ladies preferred their own spicier deviled eggs. Neither yielded when Daisy suggested leaving the eggs off the reception menu. Game on.
Barb Smith was going to do the flowers for the church and the reception. Bobbie Sue had always stated a preference for the types of flowers she liked- and disliked. Bobbie Sue hated carnations, disliked the mess of lilies, and believed nothing screamed funeral like gladioli.
She hated orange, and yellow was too cheery when someone had just passed over to eternity, no matter how much of a pain in the fanny they were while alive, according to Bobbie Sue.
Bobbie Sue was known to sit at a funeral and loudly critique everything from the flowers to the make up job on the deceased.
She also felt that wearing any color other than black was a slap in the face of the deceased. It’s mourning she would sniff while dressed in her black wool blend dress, stockings, hat and gloves in the sweltering August humidity.
Barb found hydrangeas in November at the local Whole Foods. Bobbie Sue had planned to die in April so that she could have an assortment of spring blossoms at her funeral. Luckily, out of season flowers could be bought at the local market- for a price.
Blues, greens and white roses were chosen for the church and reception. An abundance of native greens would be culled from the church grounds to complete the arrangements. No baby’s breath would be used as filler. Bobbie Sue declared it “tacky.”
The day of the funeral came, and the church was prepared for the Bobbie Sue’s service. The flower arrangement was large and tasteful, the mourners wore black (thank goodness it was a cool, overcast November day), and the auxillary and the guild set out the trays in anticipation of the food that would arrive for the reception.
Bubba and his wife arrived. They took their seats up front and behind them mourners began to fill the pews. The organist played some of Bobbie Sue’s favorite tunes. The altar party vested and The Rev. Hansford arrived in the sacristy.
Are the ashes present he asked one of the Guild ladies who was filling the wine cruets.
I don’t know she answered. I thought the ushers take care of the ashes.
The Reverand went down the aisle and pulled aside one of the ushers.
Did the ashes arrive? he asked
I don’t know, the usher replied. I thought the family takes care of the ashes.
The Reverend sighed and turned on his heel. He went to the first pew where Bubba was flipping through a hymnal, while his wife was perched on a kneeler with her fanny parked on the pew. Obviously they were not regular church goers.
The Reverend leaned down and asked Bubba softly if his Aunt had arrived.
She’s dead, Bubba said.
The Reverend sighed inwardly.
I know, Bubba and I’m sorry for your loss. I meant to say are your Aunt’s remains here at the church.
I don’t know, Bubba answered puzzled. I thought the church arranged to bring her here. I thought she come in a hearse from the funeral home.
No, Bubba. The church does not arrange for her remains to come to the church. The funeral home expects a family member to pick up her remains when the cremation is done.
Oops, giggled his wife. I guess you messed up there, Bubba.
The Reverend gave the wife a stern look. She covered her mouth and leaned over her hands pretending to pray.
Well, said the Reverend. We can perform the service without her ashes. It’s been done before.
Now, wait a minute said the wife. You mean we have a funeral and she ain’t even here? That don’t seem legal.
It’s legal said the Reverend through clenched teeth. It’s completely legal and it is approved by the church.
But, said Bubba. We promised Aunt Bobbie Sue that she would have a big funeral, even if she had to be cremated because that no good ex-husband of hers gave her plot to his stupid wife.
The Reverend wished he had gone to play golf today and handed this funeral over to his associate. Bobbie Sue was a difficult woman in life, and she was proving to be just as meddlesome beyond the grave. He looked around the almost full church. He looked at his watch. It was five minutes to two, and the funeral was not going to begin without Bobbie Sue front and center in her urn.
Bubba and the Reverend stared at each other. Finally Bubba’s wife looked up from her hands.
Why don’t you call the funeral home and find out where Aunt Bobby Sue is at?
Good idea the men answered and Bubba went outside to pick up a signal. The organist was still playing, but folks were beginning to whisper and fidget. What was going on here? What in the world was the delay?
Bubba came back in the church and found the Reverend in the narthex.
It’s not good said Bubba.
What’s not good?
Well, it seems that Aunt Bobby Sue is sitting at their office waiting on me to come get her. They called my home number and told me two days ago to come get her. I forgot to give them my cell. The funeral home is forty-five minutes away. I got to sign some paperwork, and then I can fetch her, but that means the funeral will have to start later.
The Reverend wiped his brow with his handkerchief. This was becoming a mess.
You sure you don’t want to go ahead without her ashes?
No, sir! Aunt Bobbie Sue would haunt me if I did that to her. She wants a church burial and she wants to be here. You know how she loved a good funeral.
The Reverend sighed and walked into the church. He went over the the organist who was looked frazzled. He had been playing for the past forty minutes without a break. The Reverend whispered in his ear and the organist stopped playing abruptly. That got the attention of the mourners who looked over as the organist turned beet red.
The Reverend walked up to the pulpit and made the announcement.
“I’m sorry, but do to some unforeseeable circumstances this funeral has been postponed. We will have the service tomorrow.
The whispers grew into a swell of voices.
Someone spoke loudly over the din,
What about all this food? We don’t have enough room in the fridge for all the food people brought.
Bubba stood up, and stood on the top step of the altar. The Reverend looked shocked.
Bubba held up his hands and everyone grew silent.
Sorry folks. You know how Aunt Bobbie Sue loved a party. Let’s eat. I’m starving.
Again the place erupted into noise. A reception with no funeral?
Well, said Daisy to Anne. Now what?
Let’s get this food out. Those sandwiches and stuffed eggs aren’t going to keep anyway.
So the mourners followed Bubba and his wife out of the church and into the Parish Hall. The ladies setting up looked shocked to see everyone traipse in only twenty minutes into the service.
Everyone ate heartily and Bubba declared both stuffed eggs were equally delicious. He should know-he ate four each.