At the request of my mother, I drove her to National Wesleyan Church yesterday morning at National Wesleyan Church 6324 Riggs Road Hyattsville, MD 20783 Phone: 301-559-2690
Fax: 301-559-2691 for the home-going service of a new friend of hers, who she shared a vacation with by traveling to see ministers of the gospel in several states. My mother called her Christmas day 2010 to say Merry Christmas, and this woman, Claudette who my mother remembers as very funny passed away on my birthday December 31, 2010.
I went to this church with no intentions of going in, but I am a sucker for my mom. She went in, beautiful as usual. I on the other hand, in a gray sweat jacket, black tee-shirt, blue jeans, and some gray tattered new balance. Needless to say, since I was the only odd ball I stayed in the foyer with the other fifty people who could not get in.
I was thinking to myself. “Why would I want to go to a funeral?” And, more importantly, “Why would I want to attend a funeral for someone who I had never met?” As the funeral service went on their were so many overwhelming stories from friends, relatives and church members about this woman who I begin to feel like I knew her.
At one point, her sister started singing, and belting out this note like she could not let go of it. I can’t even remember the song, I just remember how strong her vocal chords were. And, she leaned over and touched the casket like Usher at Michael Jackson’s funeral. I lost it.
At the end of service, after the siblings and the children spoke, there was a woman who approached the pulpit of the church. She was pretty, tall, and mentioned that she was the youngest daughter age 31. She warned us that she would be long. Out of respect, I believe you should sit through it because how do you rush someone’s memories. Through her daughter I learned so much about her mother Claudette that I really felt like I knew her.
The youngest daughter, gave so many funny stories but there was one thing that she said that really struck a chord with me. She said that her and her mother had gone through some things but her mother never hid the things that she went through from her children. As a result, she credits her mother for making her a good parent.
The last few years of my life have been hard, period. The things that I have faced, and the processes that my daughter has witnessed me go through, purging my spirit, my relationships, losing everything and starting over again. Our children see everything whether we think they do or not, and while we can be age appropriate in how we teach them about life experiences, the key is to teach them.
At that moment, I imagined me being in that casket, and my daughter eulogizing me. I begin to cry. I thank God for my heart to be a good parent and I pray that I can impact my daughter in a way that would have her express her gratitude for our relationship in this way.
On the other hand, with my mother sitting at this funeral with this woman, 31 standing there talking about her mother, I was teary-eyed with the thought that I never want to bury my mother. I love my mother so much, and despite the hiccups and the natural changes that mothers and daughters go through this would truly break my heart.
This funeral was supposed to shine light on Claudette, and celebrate her life. I believe that she empowered people to live for God with more deliberate tenacity. From the Pastor to the choir director they spoke about her faithfulness.
The two words that they used were, “faith” and “faithfulness” to describe her. At one point I remember them saying that she didn’t come to church for people, her dedication was to God. She showed up when the doors opened regardless of what may have been going on.
The choir got up and sang several times, and on one particular song they asked for anyone who had been in the choir and sang that song even one time to come on up and stand together.
I wish I could describe to you the way that this choir sounded. It was like heaven. Between the harmony and the perfect volume, it was amazing and so was the band. I wanted to run to the altar. At one point, I zoned out and went into my own world. People were having church, and based on how they described this woman, Claudette I am confident that she would have wanted it this way.
This was truly a celebration and I am thankful that I was there to witness this. I know that it is bittersweet for the family right now but the legacy that she left behind, and that they shared will compel the people who were in that room, and who hear of this service, to live a life worth duplicating.
In dedication of Claudette’s life, I want to give you a song that has always brought tears to my eyes, and reminds me of my old church. Our choir often sung this song for funerals and I did not really understand it until I got old enough to. A special thank you to Sister Lila Smalls who made this such a powerful memory with this song and her voice at church.