Is there anything more important than faith, family, and friends? If you have to think about that, then I encourage you to reevaluate the priorities in your life. Sure, football, Facebook, and fishing add to the enjoyment of life, but the intangibles of the former are leaps and bounds above the latter or anything else for that matter.
A couple of weeks ago, my Aunt Carolyn passed away. She was my dad’s sister, and her health had been deteriorating for years. Her faith was strong. She was a simple, country woman, but a strong Christian lady.
The funeral took place in Alex City. I took the 45 minute trip with Mayor Gary Fuller, my first cousin, once-removed. He and Aunt Carolyn were first cousins.
I never knew Gary when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was two and my father died when I was eight. I didn’t know a great deal about the Fuller side of the family. I knew my grandparents, but they died in 1984 and 1986, I do believe. I was only 13 or 14, depending on when she died, and the family drifted apart once “mawmaw” passed on in ’86. I knew my aunts and uncles and first cousins and saw them sparingly throughout the years but never enough. So, I never knew any of the extended family, such as the future mayor of Opelika.
Once we arrived for visitation at Radney Funeral Home, we were bombarded by hugs and handshakes. Love was on full display. It was beautiful. I saw my dad’s last three remaining siblings who I haven’t seen since the last funeral I attended, which was for Bill, Aunt Carolyn’s husband, almost three years ago. The siblings are aging rapidly. Shame on me.
I also got to see 13 of my first cousins. I have so many amazing family members who I seldom see. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen each of them over the past three decades. I barely know them, yet I bond with them instantly when I see them. There’s never anything odd about it. There’s never a warming up period. That’s the strength of the family.
And when the boys start telling me stories about my dad taking them coon hunting, I get all teary eyed. Just about everyone I know with roots in Tallapoosa County has a coon hunting story about Randy Fuller. Now, when they tell me about him cooking ‘possum, my stomach turns.
Compared to some of the visitations I’ve been to, there weren’t a lot of people there, but the visitors who were there were filled with love, family and friends alike. I had so many people to catch up with that by the time I made it back to see Aunt Carolyn, we were within a half hour of the funeral. I was the last visitor before the staff took away the flowers. I stood there with my cousin Tammy, Aunt Carolyn’s daughter, and hugged her and Tanya, her daughter, as we looked at how peaceful she looked lying there in her casket.
Along with my other cousins, I had the honor of being asked to be a pallbearer. After transitioning Aunt Carolyn to the hearse, I rode with Gary to the graveside service where the celebration continued. I was in the back seat this time. I pointed out that I was in the backseat, because this time, my mama rode with us. Yes, my mother rode with us. Although, my mom and dad were only married around five years over forty years ago, the Fuller family always loved her and always wanted her around, and in the past couple of years, she finally started coming around. I sure do love my Fuller family. I love my mama, too.
I really want to thank Aunt Carolyn for living such a beautiful life. I remember her taking good care of my dad when he was sick. She’d drive him places sometimes. He was 100{44c616e11cf70d617c8dd92fb0bc15f41001df771f775c6b004238009c89a3f0} blind and my step-mother was legally blind. She also took care of my mawmaw during her last couple of years. And last but not least, I want to thank her for bringing her family together one more time.
Why does it often take a funeral to bring families together? It shouldn’t.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at For more information, please visit