My Farm Stories forum: A home funeral

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Feb 6, 2010 4:41 PM CST
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY
We watched them walk up the hill from the Bishop's house to the cemetery. The first group were men and boys, grandfather, father, uncles, brothers, cousins. Following a distance behind were the eight pall bearers and the Bishop, who was also a grandfather. The bearers, uncles all, passed a small box from one to the other, the stillborn twin not needing much of an accommodation to see it from this life to the next. A distance behind came the women and girls, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, the babe's mother absent, home with the living twin.

The procession walked up the hill and into the small cemetery, between the snow banks that uncles had pushed up with the family skid steer, to the tiny hole in the freezing ground. They were there for only a short time, long enough for prayers and a hymn, the long tones drawn out, flowing over the snow.

It was a different trip back down. Boys ran ahead, girls bunched up, one wrapped in a patch work quilt against the cold. The grandfathers walked amidst the younger men. One young couple separated by a space walked slowly, the fringe on her shawl ruffling in the chill breeze. The uncles, coming last, carried their shovels, having done the final service for the child left at the top of the hill.

Feb 6, 2010 8:19 PM CST
Name: Dorothy
ADK mountains
This is sad, but it brings to mind a question I often ask at historical places, and which has never been thoroughly addressed.

Up here the snow can accumulate to 6 or eight feet in a winter. Also, the ground can freeze many feet down.

If someone died in the middle of winter in the 1800s, would the body be stored somewhere until a thaw? Would they shovel the snow down, and perhaps build a fire to thaw the ground for burial?

I really wonder about winter burials in this part of the country. Even now with power equipment, bodies are stored in mausoleums until spring. But there weren't mausoleums then, many people were buried locally.

Do you know about the customs?
Feb 7, 2010 5:57 AM CST
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY
I believe they did store the bodies, but I think it would probably depend on the community where they were actually kept.

We get plenty of snow, as well, and the ground freezes a couple of feet down. I think this funeral came off because we are just past the January thaw, and while it's been very cold, the snow that didn't all melt down has kept the ground insulated at against hard freezing.
[Last edited Apr 15, 2010 4:21 PM CST]
Quote | Post #15886 (3)
Feb 7, 2010 8:06 AM CST
Name: Dorothy
ADK mountains
Well people sure weren't insulated against the harsh realities of life, were they?

I've read the Adirondack histories where women would nurse along some plants indoors, in order to have a flower or two for the people florists then.

Death is a part of life we sweep under the rug, now.
Mar 31, 2010 8:51 PM CST
Name: Sharon
A lovely telling of a sad story, Kath....

I'm just now finding you here, and so glad to see you. I think I have a lot of catching up to do.
May 17, 2010 3:07 PM CST
Name: Cyndy
Village of Chippewa Lake, Oh
Beautiful, and touching.

You are a wonderous writer and storyteller.

I'm glad I found you.
May 17, 2010 4:56 PM CST
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY
Thank you - I'm glad you found me, too.

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