At his wake on Wednesday night, two fire trucks, lights flashing, stood outside the funeral home in tribute to my Uncle Bud. A firefighter since the 1940s, Uncle Bud had been the oldest living fireman in his town. And people turned out to bid him farewell. A lot of people came.
The brief service given by the firemen at the funeral home that night was heartfelt. These men knew my uncle, had trained under him, had learned from him and alongside him. They had his back and he had theirs in many a tough situation.
We buried my Uncle Bud Thursday. The processional from the funeral home to the church was terrific. My Uncle’s uniform hat, coat and boots were lashed to the front of his black bunting-covered rig. The hearse followed the fire trucks and we, car after car, fell in behind.
At the church where he and my Aunt Lucille were daily worshippers for many years, the priest spoke warmly and familiarly of God’s faithful servant, Uncle Bud. I listened and I was humbled; my Uncle did so much to help others in his life. He was a true and faithful servant of God. He lived and breathed his faith; his grandchildren learned from the example set by their “Pap” and their own Dads, my cousins, my Uncle’s fine sons. I gazed around church, familiar to me after so many visits over the years. The inside is hand painted in shades of peach, blue, green, gold and more. The interior reminds me of a Faberge egg I once saw: A perfect jewel box.
After the service my Uncle’s five grandsons and one fireman once again placed my Uncle’s body into the waiting hearse. A long line of cars carrying relatives fell in behind the two fire trucks and hearse. When the recessional passed the firehouse where Uncle Bud has served so long and well, the sirens sounded; folks standing outside stopped and watched us roll by.
At the cemetery a military honor guard waited; they sent Uncle Bud off with a final farewell – a 4-man team for a final gun salute and “Taps.” My Aunt carried the U.S. flag used to drape his coffin – the flag under which my Uncle fought, for the country in which he believed – in her lap back to the church hall for lunch and reminiscing with the friends who waited there.