By Hardy Jackson
Shortly before he died, my Father gave my son this bit of advice:
“Pile it all in one place and keep an eye on it.”
It is always good to leave behind words to ponder.
Daddy had some pretty specific instructions for his funeral. The music and who would play and sing it, “in lieu of flowers,” that sorta thing. And he wrote for the preacher to “keep it short.”
How well the preacher pulled that off is a matter of opinion. My Daddy’s view of “short” was, well, “short.” However, a number of folks came up afterward to tell me what a “nice service” it was and how the preacher said just the right thing. (Which, when you think of it, is sorta like saying he made the best of a bad situation, which I guess that is what preachers do in cases like that.)
One person did mention that he got lost when the preacher went off on sheep in his comments on the 23rd Psalm which Daddy had wanted read, but I don’t think the complainer had any experience with sheep, so there wasn’t much in it for him anyway.
Me, I decided that if I write up instructions for my funeral I am going to want the preacher to tell the mourners assembled:
He had a plowman’s strength in his right hand.
He could spot a crow three miles away.
He could dig a ditch and hang a gate and plow as straight as a stone can fall.
And he is dead.
And let them ponder that.
In the days and weeks after the funeral we went through the piles of stuff Daddy left behind – which he piled in one place (the house) where he could keep an eye on it. One of the first things I did was throw away a hundred or so pictures that our dear-departed cousin “Little Mary” took of her cats. An old maid with more than her share of eccentricities, “Little Mary” kept dozens of cats in a “kitty motel” behind her house, named some after Confederate generals, and took pictures. When she died Daddy got rid of the cats. The pictures got put in the pile. I got rid of the pictures.
Then we had to probate the will.
Daddy left no instructions on that, other than the will itself, which is a pretty straight-forward legal document with none of the twists and turns he could have put in it if he had been in the mood.
However, among his papers I found a single photocopy of a will that was filed for probate in 1934. The author was not identified. I suspect Daddy left it as a warning to me and others of what he might have done with his will if he had a mind to.
Original phrasing and spelling included, it reads:
I am writing my will mineself as lawyers ask to many answers about the family. first think I want I don’t want my brother Oscar to get a dam thing I got. he done me out of forty dollar fourteen years since.
I want it that Hilda my sister she gets the north sixtie akers where i am homing it now. i bet she don’t get that loafer husband of her to brake twentie akers next plowing, she cant have it if she lets Oscar live on it. i want i should have it back if she does.
Tell moma that six hundred dollars she has been looking for for ten years is berried from the bakhouse behind about ten feet down. she better little frederick do the digging and count it when he comes up.
Pastor lucknitz can have three hundred dollars if he kisses the book he wont preach no more dumhead talks about politiks. He should a roof put on the meeting house with and the elders should the bills look at.
Mom should the rest get but i want it so that Adolph should tell her what not she should do so no more slick irishers sell her vaken cleaners. they make noise like hell and a broom don’t cost so much.
I want it that mine brother Adolph be execter and i want it that the judge should please make adolph plenty bond put up and watch him like hell. Adolph is a good bisness man but only a dumkopl would trust him with a busted penny.
I want darn sure that Oscar don’t nothing got. Tell Adolph he can have a hundred dollars if he prove judge Oscar don’t got nothing. That dam sure fix Oscar.
It is always good to leave behind words to ponder. Daddy did.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.