My father was very sick since the spring and by the last few weeks of July, he was in the hospital more than out and the doctors had prepared our family for what was coming. I knew that my father’s desire was to go “home” to be buried — back to Alabama. The problem was, I didn’t know how in the world to make that happen.
So I called my friend, Michael McNeal. Michael’s family has owned McCullough Funeral Home since it was founded. I didn’t want to be morbid or seem like I was ready for something that I wasn’t really ready for, but I felt like I needed to know what I should do when the inevitable came.
My short conversation with Michael calmed my soul and brought me peace. After I explained to Michael that Daddy was really sick and had always said he wanted to be buried next to his family in Alabama, I told Michael that I didn’t know how to fulfill my father’s wishes.
“You call me,” Michael said to me.
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Three simple words, but I did feel like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.
Standing in the hospital a few nights later at 1 a.m., when I was asked by a sweet woman who I wanted them to call about the arrangements, I answered, “McCullough’s.”
Michael was out of town the day we lost Daddy but had left word with his staff that I might be calling that week and had arranged for Adam Hamlin — who used to jump my fence when he was 5 years old and play in our sandbox — to organize everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. From the flowers to the preacher to the coordination with the cemetery, McCullough’s devoted themselves to every detail.
The flowers had the Masonic emblem, since my father had been a Mason and others were red and white — like the colors of his beloved Crimson Tide. The preacher that spoke was from Hunter Street Baptist Church, the church my parents had attended more than 50 years earlier when they last lived in Birmingham. Michael and his mother, Carol McNeal, came to Birmingham to help my family say goodbye to Daddy — to think that she drove all that way to help Michael oversee the details meant so much to my mother and me.
But if you think that when the funeral is over, you are done, you are wrong. The paperwork that has to be done, to change retirement checks or insurance that has to be filed, is staggering.
When I was told that McCullough’s had a staff member that would guide me through that paperwork mountain, I again felt peace. She has been a crutch for us to lean on these past few weeks and has made what could have been overwhelming much easier.
By the first month’s anniversary of Daddy’s death, the cards and calls had dwindled away. So I was surprised to reach in my mailbox and find a card that morning. It was a notice that McCullough’s had arranged to have a tree planted in Daddy’s memory in a national forest. Again, I felt peace, as I imagined Daddy’s tree growing, living, providing life in its branches for animals and birds.
This summer drained me physically and emotionally. I have been sustained and uplifted from many sources: my God, my family, my friends. But a large portion of comfort came from McCullough’s. I will always remember the love and outreach that Michael McNeal and the staff of McCullough Funeral Home showed my family as they ministered to us and helped me fulfill my father’s wishes.
Alline Kent can be reached at email@example.com or 396-2467.