The Solemnest of Industries Enacted Upon Earth

Sometimes living  in the South leaves me feeling a little defeated.  I know the majority of people in my homeland don’t see the world the way that I do, and that can be a very lonely feeling.  However, I also know that the rest of the country sees us in a way that doesn’t fully reflect who we are, and that’s troubling, too.  Although we are not the most educated, or the most free-thinking, or the most tolerant, I would argue that we are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet,.  At first glance, that probably doesn’t jibe with the predominately conservative leanings of our region.  But I have to say that I’ve encountered a lot of seemingly intolerant people who are extraordinarily charitable and compassionate and understanding toward real people who are down on their luck, as opposed to the theoretical folks they claim to disdain.

The other day, I read a story that reminded me of this striking contrast between the way Southerners claim to regard the less fortunate and the way we actually treat them.  In Columbia, South Carolina, the County Coroner has taken it upon himself to hold funerals for those whose bodies remain unclaimed after thirty days.  The law only requires that the County dispose of the bodies, but several times a year, the Coroner, his minister, and anyone else who wishes to attend hold a ceremony to mark the passing of these precious people.  The bodies are entrusted to the Coroner’s care when a relative fails to claim them or when the family lacks the  resources to pay for a burial or cremation.  The bodies are then cremated and buried, and each receives a headstone to mark the grave.  At the most recent ceremony, the bodies of the ten men, four women and one stillborn baby girl were laid to rest.  Among them were Baby Girl Brown-Greene, stillborn Feb. 22, and Emmer Lou and Eldon T. Williamson, a married couple who died twenty-four days apart in the same nursing home.  At the end of the ceremony, the minister read Psalms 23 and said a prayer: “God is the one who can meet all of our needs. It is he who walks with us.”  He concluded by saying each person’s name.

I couldn’t be prouder of us for this one.  Everyone deserves to have someone there to mark the end of their life, however it was lived.  I’m so glad that the folks in Columbia, who don’t often make the right decisions when it comes to matters concerning individual rights and human dignity, understand this simple fact.  Bravo, people, and please don’t stop there, because we still have a long way to go.

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4 Responses to “The Solemnest of Industries Enacted Upon Earth”

  1. AGreenEyeDevil Says:

    For all of my grievances with organized religion, I remain a suprisingly spiritual person. The act of compassion and human recognition exercised by this County Coroner is an act of true grace.

  2. myrtlebeachbum Says:

    I’ve got that old-time religion, too, Devil. I just have to choose carefully when I’m trying to find a church at which to practice it.

  3. Skinny Bone Jones Says:

    Wow. I love your blog.

  4. BowlingForDollars Says:

    Myrtlebeachbum, this made my eyes well up.

    I’m right here beside you fighting the good fight in the South.

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