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The Fourth more fun than a funeral

The Fourth is more fun than a funeral.

That’s why there was a good bit of disappointment when the talk was that China Grove wouldn’t host the Fourth of July Parade this year.

Man is a social creature. He (and she) needs the companionship of others in order to maintain a healthy and happy frame of mind.

But in this fast-paced, rat-race world that we live in, there is little time for casual socialization.

Families are so strung out all over the country that family reunions are almost extinct.

So few women cook now days that dinner on the ground is almost a thing of the past. When there is occasion for one, people stop off for buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and potato salad from Wal-Mart. The more ambitious cooks throw together a string bean or English pea casserole and “Voila!” dinner on the ground.

Small country churches used to have frequent barbecues but the health police got involved in that and now require a kitchen fit for Martha Stewart and a hot water heater capable of scalding the feathers off a chicken.

A few decades ago, “sittin’ ups” were in vogue. The body of the deceased was brought home and set up in the living room or another room suitable for company. Friends and neighbors came and brought their favorite home cooked dishes and people sent flowers, which were a visual expression of deep sympathy. Women worked in the kitchen and men milled around in the yard or sat on the front porch. And, everywhere folks spoke in whispers – out of respect for the family. Several close friends stayed the night. It was the proper and right thing for someone to sit up all night with the body.

But it’s different nowadays.

Sittin’ ups are few and far between. Now, we have “visitations” and folks take full advantage of the reason to get out among friends and neighbors – and visit.

Some folks come way before the visitation begins so they don’t miss anybody. And those who come late don’t seem to mind one bit that the “que” line in longer than the one for Space Mountain at Disney World.

There’s so much chatter, laughter and merriment that it would, as the old saying goes, “wake the dead.”

But then the Bible says that we should rejoice at the going out and sorrow at the coming in. There is certainly rejoicing at a visitation. And, it’s not that folks these days are not truly saddened at the passing of a friend or neighbor. It’s just that they are so glad to be in the fellowship of friends and neighbors and to make new acquaintances.

At a visitation in Enterprise, the strangers in front of us were quick to make our acquaintance. They wanted to know where we were from, who they knew that we might know, how many children and dogs we had, if we’d had any recent surgeries and our thoughts on the hereafter. Before we reached the “family” to offer our condolences, we had been invited to join them at the Mellow Mushroom for pizza after the visitation and to stop by their house any time we were in Enterprise.

It’s that need for fellowship and a bit of nosiness that keeps the line moving at a snail’s pace at a visitation and folks hanging around long after they have “made it through the line.” It’s out of that same need that some folks attend visitations of people they didn’t know all that well and really didn’t “care for.” They just feel like rejoicing.

And, it’s out of the desire for friendship and fellowship and the need to rejoice that hundreds of folks from all walks of life make their way to China Grove on the Fourth of July each year.

The parade’s not grand by any measure. It pales in comparison to big city parades as far as fancy floats, glorious bands and two-story balloons but, when it comes to what really matters – friends and neighbors rejoicing together in celebration of the good life that we as Americans enjoy – then there’s no place like China Grove on the Fourth of July.

So, to all of those friends in China Grove who open their doors and their hearts for “visitation” on the Fourth of July, just know that we rejoice in being there and thank you for having us.