Monday, March 19, 2007

The Sign In The Window

When I was growing up, we had a furniture store in town. The owners also had a funeral home. The store was on main street but the mortuary was not. The owners always had a black sign with white plastic letters leaning in the window of the furniture store on main street to announce upcoming funerals.
We always had to drive slowly past the store to see if anyone's name was on the sign. Sometimes it would be a surprise. Sometimes expected and never welcome. The habit of looking in the window on main street was so embedded in the folks here that when the store and mortuary ended up in different hands, we still looked to see if there was an announcement we should know about. The owners found a different store to put the notice in so it was just three store fronts north of where it had been for decades.
I read Jims blog yesterday telling about his Dad not doing well and that he was soon to be heaven bound. So tonight I slowed down when I went past the closed up store with the sign in the front. As I drove past I saw the last name Hovendick. I knew immediately that I needed to circle the block and read the info. Sure enough it was my friend Vernon. I sat there and stared and thought for about 5 minutes. All a great man had left was a memorial service in the church, a Masonic service at the funeral home, and family visitation. Then I thought 'Good for him' he's on the way.
There are so many family stories with the Morrow's and the Hovendicks. Jim's parents and ours were best of friends. Neighboring back then was important. It was necessary and it was the entertainment. My earliest recollection of Marge and Vernon was in church. Marge taught Sunday School for more than 50 years in the basement of our little church. It seemed that every Worship Service, Deacons meeting, Trustees meeting, practice, revival, or potluck dinner that I can remember being at, Marge and/or Vernon were there.
I have a point. I bought seed corn from Vernon for several years, I went to countless lodge and church meetings with him. I took him fishing with me once in the Missouri River when he was making a delivery of seed corn to me. Vernon was quiet, totally unassuming, pleasant, and loved to smile. He spent hours studying the Bible every week. He couldn't have been a better model of Christian living and values to the young people he was influencing. And in the probably thousands of hours I've been in the same room with him in my life, I never once heard him utter a word that couldn't have been broadcast from a pulpit on Sunday morning. Vernon was the 'real thing'. This world will miss him though I certainly would not be one to begrudge him his reward. His wife of many years has been waiting patiently on the other side. Life couldn't have been pleaseant for him the last few years. His hearing and sight had run their course. He was ready I'm sure, to escape this veil of tears.
If Vernon isn't in Heaven right now. There isn't one. But I assure you that he is.

23 comments:

Jerry said...

Cliff,
I'd never heard of anyone putting the death notices in a store window. We have a local funeral home that actually has a marquee announcing who's showing that day.

It's sad when you lose a good neighbor like Vernon. You paint a great picture of a great man.

Paul said...

I know how hard it is to lose a great friend...

Cliff, sometimes you just leave us speechless.

Michael said...

That was a wonderful testament to a good man and friend, Cliff. I'm sorry for your loss. And joyful for Vernon's reward. ;)

Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...

Cliff
Your story reminded me of traveling through NE Colorado last summer. I stopped at a local cafe. After lunch the waitress set a slice of cherry pie in front of me - I didn't order it. Seems like a local guy, by the name Art, was laid to rest earlier that week. The resturant was giving every one that came in that week a free slice of cherry pie. If you were there for breakfast they would box it for you to take home.
For years Art had shown up around three o'clock almost every day for a piece of cherry pie and a cup of coffee. The resturant owner never charged him the last few years of his life. They just told him they would put it on his tab.
Art, like Vern, left a mark that will never be erased.
Ralph

Ione said...

Cliff, what a wonderful tribute you have said for our Uncle Vernon.
And you have really said it all. That was our Uncle Vernon for sure.
He was a neat uncle to us and the
last of the four brothers.

nora said...

What a beautiful tribute to your neighbor.

Karen H said...

Mr. Morrow, that is a great tribute to Grandpa. He was a wonderful and kind man who lived a good Christian life. You are definitely right that he is in Heaven rejoicing and with Grandma!

Kendra Lynn said...

You know...more and more...I envy those who get to go on and join Jesus. I wish I could have known Vernon...I do know many like him...and someday, you and Vernon can go fishin' in heaven.

Kendra

Jim said...

Thanks, Cliff, for writing that. I know you didn't write if for us, you just wanted to show your closeness to and affection for him. We appreciate you so much and what you have meant for Dad too.
That is Dad you are writing about. He was great and I can never fill his shoes.
We are in Blair tonight and will be in Tekamah tomorrow to make all the arrangements. Then again Friday and Saturday for the funeral things. I am pretty sure we will get to talk this week, my sister Lois is here too.
Thanks again for that wonderful write-up. Jim
..

Britmum said...

Cliff that was an incredibly moving tribute to a wonderful man. You have left me feeling like a know Jims Dad.

I just love the way you write. You bring so much life to your words and empathy.

Take care xx

GeL(emerald eyes) said...

Cliffers,
You write from the heart and this shines just like you, Vernon, and many other good people. Since you will see Jim and the rest of his family in person, please give them extra hugs from this green-eyed woman out here in the East. Wonderfully touching tribute. I ddin't realize the Mason crossed religious lines, because I'm a Mason's daughter, not officially initiated as a Job's daughter, but could be...

P.S.(At some other point when life is settled down, swing by for a visit.It might give you a laugh, although I'm not nearly as funny as you are. I broke down and posted some photos of me, but the story of me losing my balance is well, you'll see. If typepad won't let you post, just email me.

Lee said...

A beautiful, heartfelt tribute to Vernon, Cliff. Thanks for letting us into his life.

Jeanette said...

A beautiful tribute to your dear friend and neighbour. They still put Funeral notices in many of our shop windows and the 3 Clubs also.

Rachel said...

A wonderful post Cliff. It's too bad that there aren't more folks like Vernon around these days.

Jamie Dawn said...

Superbly written tribute to a man who lived in such a way as to deserve the praise of Cliff Morrow.
That means he was a VERY good man.

Vernon's toils are over; nothing but joy from here on out...

Rhodent said...

This world could sure use more Vernons... a nice tribute to him Cliff.

By the way, historically, the local funeral directors (embalmers) were usually the local cabinet and furniture maker. Caskets or coffins ,as they used to be, were a natural sideline to the business. In those days wakes were held in the home of the deceased and often the embalming took place there as well. People were not so removed from death then. It is interesting to learn about some of the old death-related customs that existed in this country years ago.

Gette said...

What a lovely tribute.

LZ Blogger said...

Ah Cliff... you brought back a lot of OLD memories here with this post... Things I had not thought about in years! THANKS! ~ jb///

1 plus twins said...

so sorry to hear about the loss, it sounds like jim's dad was a wonderful. i am sure by what you wrote he is reunited with his wife! again give my sympathies to your family and jims!

Raggedy said...

Beautiful post!
Vernon sounds like a wonderful man who touched many lives.
May he rest in peace.
I am sorry for you loss.
Hugs

Peter said...

A great post about a great country tradition and a fine man Cliff.
We all know Vernon a little better now, thank you.

Jim said...

Karen had printed your blog tribute to her Grandpa and just ran across it again today as she was cleaning her desk at work for a move to a different building.

I asked her if it made her cry. "Yes." It almost did me, this is wonderful. The comments were all nice too.

We are just about at that time. I never remember the death or funeral dates but always his birthday, January 28.
..