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At the end of the day

“At the end of the day” is probably one of the phrases I use the most. It can mean literally at the time when work or waking hours are done. It can be used figuratively as when every thing else has been taken into consideration. That is the way I tend to use it, as in the final analysis of things.

I went to Cottonwood this weekend for a funeral. As we age and go back home it seems that funerals become the primary reason for the visits. I saw many people I had not seen since my father’s funeral there 10 years ago.

This funeral wasn’t for a childhood friend. She was slightly older than my mother. I hadn’t seen her in many years. Her children have drifted in and out of my life over the years, although I know where they all are and what they are doing.

The sign out in front of her home used to say “Janie’s Beauty Shop.” I can barely remember when they added the beauty parlor, as some called it, to the side of their house. She had a son, Philip, who was a year and a day younger than me and I loved to go out there and play while my mother was having her weekly appointment.

It was where my first great dog got his tail caught in an electric fence and I got shocked trying to get him out. It was where I first learned to use Indian Cane or some other green plant to see if an electric fence was hot.

They had pigs that would be boarded up in small pens. We would climb up and over the fence and then jump down and the hog would chase us, our childhood version of running with the bulls.

It was so much fun until one of the hogs fell down in the pen from exertion. It turns out that we wore him out and he died of a heart attack, ending forever our pig chases.

The old barn still stands behind the house. One of my first summer jobs was delivering gypsum. My recollection was that 10 tons came on a truck and Mr. Bradshaw had ordered 100 tons. He wanted it all stacked in one place. Even though I wasn’t 16, I drove truck after truck out to that barn, stacking those 100 pound bags ever higher. It wasn’t pretty when it was finished, but I got the job done.

Janie’s husband, James Othell Bradshaw, died 25 years to the day before her funeral. Even now, when my brother and I are going to cook Brunswick stew we pull out an old piece of paper in my mother’s handwriting that has at the top, “J.O.’s Stew.” Even after those 25 years I never eat it without thinking about him.

She and Othell had five children. In addition to Philip, Pricilla got a Ph.D. and never really came back home. I was so impressed that someone that smart could come from Cottonwood. Patricia married Randall, who worked in our peanut business for many years. Gloria was a baby-sitter for me and my siblings, although you would never know it by her youthful appearance. Her move to Panama City several years ago brought her back into our family’s life. Scotty had a rare blood type shared by my mother, who was on call any time he had a car wreck or injury.

The children and spouses filed into the packed church, followed by 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then began one of the most uplifting and unusual funerals I have ever attended.

The preacher held up a sheet and said these were Janie’s instructions. They weren’t Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian. They were just the wishes of a woman who had followed the Lord and set an example for all around her.

There was singing, lots of singing. We stood for every hymn because Janie said to stand. The bulletin further instructed that we sing with pep and vigor.

We heard from a granddaughter who captured so eloquently the way her “Granny” had touched the lives of all those children. Janie spoke the truth, told things like she saw them, and didn’t mind praying in the middle of the day if someone needed those prayers.

Her expectations were clear and her laughter was loud. She cooked great peas and shared her bounty with those less fortunate. She was the Internet in a small town 50 years ago when the weekly beauty shop trip was the best way to get news.

As I listened to this grandchild I had never known, I realized I could have said all these things from my own childhood. I took comfort in seeing the family’s celebration of her life.

Janie Bradshaw was part of the village that raised me and dozens just like me. After I was gone, she kept doing the same thing with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

From a farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town, she touched the lives of so many in a positive way, making a difference without some even knowing it. At the end of the day, Janie lived a life that had to be pleasing to the God she followed and set examples for all of us. At the end of the day, that is all that really matters.

Dan Ponder can be reached at dan@ponderenterprises.net