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Civics Lesson at a Funeral

I went to a funeral last Friday, expecting a treasured farewell, and I got a civic lesson.

This was the funeral of the first woman, in our beloved Paris, with whom I fell head over heels in woman-worship, 24 years ago.

Point One:

She had a building dedicated to literacy named after her. I definitely noticed that.

Point Two:

When she was there, you knew it. Not because she was loud, she was actually tiny and quiet, or at least she was not particularly boisterous (in general public). Also, not because she flaunted herself in that never ending female beauty contest. No, you noticed her because she was a person. People were aware of her because of the legacy in town she’d made for herself without trying to, such as her dedication to literacy. Yes, she was also the wife of a beloved judge, but this was not the reason people knew and loved Rachel Braswell.

It was, instead, because, Point Three:

She was brave and unafraid to speak out, and do, and be true. This is not nothing. There were women her age who did, but many succumbed to the infernal pressure in the South for the little lady to shut up and tow the line. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had concerned folks tell me to take care, that I will be put in my place, even in this day. So I can’t imagine what it was like in Rachael’s day. But I’m thankful for these women who plowed ahead and did it anyway, just as I do. It’s still not easy, but it is much easier than it was.

And, Point Four:

She was kind. She did all this and was kind, with a smile on her face, and you know that because of the legacy of her children and grand children, for they are the same as her, in so many ways.

Anyway, 24 years ago, I—still very much a baby lawyer—took note of Rachel Braswell, and decided that I, too, could be passionate about my causes. I would speak out. I would also raise awareness for literacy and story love.

Evidently, Rachel also planned her funeral, which was to be the Greatest Funeral Ever, with a smile on top. And it was. Very different. Grandchild (grown) got up and read selected poems, such as The Road Not Taken, and Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar, then told a little about the meaning of each to Rachel and to them. The story of the Good Samaritan was preached, and then came the pièce de résistance- We Shall Overcome. It healed a bit of my soul, especially because I don’t remember singing that song to the lead of an organ before. And everyone knows, when an organ is blasting, a soprano shall do so as well. Boy, did I need it.

Farewell, Rachel, and thank you for the lessons, the passion, and the kindness. I’m not done yet. Neither, friends, are you. ❤️

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