EPISODE 13 — ‘Before Disney Was A Land’
CJ and I had a very insightful afternoon. We got to witness a most interesting eulogy for a lovely African-American woman who passed away at the ripe old age of 94. She belonged to the Baptist church, which was like a second home for her. She volunteered a lot of time doing good works and attending prayer meetings, revivals, and retreats. CJ had never worked a funeral in a traditional black church such as this was. She was hoping there would be a lot of singing and celebration incorporated into the service for sister Julia Jefferson. Mr. B said she would find a lot of elderly folks who could scarcely walk unaided, for sure. Probably not all the fanfare she’d heard about or seen in the movies, he chuckled softly. Mr. B buried Mrs. Jefferson’s husband a few years back. He said she was such a proper, but modest woman, and he knew her well. Said it was a shame to see her die of pneumonia in summer. Six months earlier, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some reason the doctors took an aggressive approach to treating her for it. Folks who knew her thought that was ridiculous, considering her age and all. But the doctors talked her into the whole regimen: mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. She never quite bounced back after the surgical procedure. Instead, she weakened considerably, until she was confined to her bed. That is how she got the pneumonia.
I popped into my place, in CJ’s suit jacket pocket and went along for the service. We got things set up, and the service got underway. I popped into CJ’s purse because it was simply a very hot day; too stuffy in her pocket. I could see the ladies in their fine lace and beaded hats and church clothes. Impeccably coifed and dressed, they were. The men were also quite dapper in their Sunday clothes. There was not a choir, and I know CJ was a little disappointed. BUT! There was quite a sermon followed by a very artfully crafted eulogy, given by the good Reverend Harper.
Mr. B and CJ sat in a small open room at the back of the church, probably used as a crying room on Sunday, I estimated. Mr. B settled onto the bench and began to nod a bit, as he often did. He wasn’t a young man anymore. He was in his late 60’s. He began his days before the sun was up, and ended them late most nights.
Soon the Reverend stepped up to the pulpit and began talking about Julia. The women in the pews were busily nodding in agreement and fanning themselves. A few “amens” were heard at several intervals of the eulogy. “Julia had a lonnnngggg life! She saw a man land on the moon! She saw much in her time here on earth. She always packed light on the revival trips; the men always happy to help her with her bag. She wasn’t a heavy packer, like most of the sisters. In fact, that’s how Julia lived her life, she packed light!” That statement received a good chorus of ‘amens’ and nods from the room. CJ smiled at the thought of the burdensome suitcases and assorted baggage she imagined the other ladies taking on those bus trips, practically breaking the backs of the men who lugged them and stifled a giggle as she did.
“Julia was around a lonnnnggg time, indeed,” continued the Reverend. “Julia was here before Mickey was a Mouse, and Disney was a land!” Great cheers and a chorus of “amens” punctuated that statement. The Reverend, I noted, seemed to like to reiterate these valid points, to emphasize the depth of his message to the congregation. I suppose it could be a style of preaching, actually. CJ picked up on that, too. She reached over to tap Mr. B on the knee, so he could hear this. I peered up to catch CJ in full grin, trying her very best not to burst into laughter. Again, the Reverend exclaimed,”Yessiree, Sister Julia was blessed to be alive before Mickey was a Mouse, and Disney was a Land; before commercial airplanes, civil rights, before a man stepped onto the moon…” Mr. B was now grinning at this animated and emphatic eulogy. He playfully poked CJ in the knee, as he stifled his own urge to laugh aloud.
Yes, it was indeed an interesting choice of words. One that still makes us chuckle to this day.
© 2013, Colleen Thompson.