Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kenny Horn's 'Bake'

Today we buried my long time friend Kenny Horn who passed away on Thursday, April 22, 2010 after a long, hard, battle with life. If you wonder what I mean by that just click the link above.

The funeral was held at a small country Baptist Church in Goodwater, Alabama.

Let me start with the really, inexplicably, exquisitely, great stuff about a real country funeral in rural, economically depressed Alabama. There is nothing in the world quite like one. The people, who are poor in material items, but very, very, rich in spirit, tenacity, and grit showed up in droves. The kind of deep, wonderful, true, country people that are who they are no matter where they are, By God! Real people. Not a bone of pretense in them. Salt of the earth in its purest form.

They are the people who packed out the church in droves, I mean standing room only, many who were dressed in their t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. One pallbearer was a biker, complete with long hair, tattoos and a chain attached to his billfold. Another wore a green t-shirt. I guess he didn't have a white one. And that's ok. Around here what you are wearing couldn't make less of a shit to those who know and love you. We don't necessarily have dress codes. I mean, at my brother John's funeral we dressed him in overalls and an Alabama Crimson Tide cap and all of the pallbearers wore overalls.

In fact, Kenny Horn, who was an HUGE Alabama Crimson Tide fan, was buried in his 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship t-shirt. And that is just as it should be. I was worried that some do-gooder would try to suit him up....which just wouldn't have gone over well at all. Not only was Kenny buried in his Tide tee, his casket spray and one of the large wreaths had Crimson Tide ribbons all over them. His awesome beard, which he loved so much, was left intact as well.

That's just how we do stuff around here. We are who we are when we are living, and when we leave this life, we go out as who we were. That's the way things ought to be, in my opinion. Come and go as you are.

There was some beautiful solo singing by a gentleman. He first sang Amazing Grace. Despite my being a non-believer those familiar Christian hymns remind me of comforting things from my childhood and I always enjoy them. The next piece of music was something I have never heard before. It was a pre-recorded bluegrass/country/gospel tune and I think the title was "Stroll Across Heaven with You". That'un made me squall almost as bad as 'Precious Memories' does at funerals. Kenny's mom cried out repeatedly during that song, too. While I was sitting up front and couldn't say for absolute certain I'd be willing to bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house after that tune. I'd actually like a copy of that for my mp3 player. If anyone knows the artist or has a copy please let me know.

During the service I sat next to Kenny's elderly first cousin. We talked and introduced ourselves. As soon as I said my name a gentleman sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was Loretta Nall. I told him I was and he and his wife said they had read my tribute to Kenny and thought it spot on. They thanked me for it. I was glad that the family had liked it. I told them after the service and after the funeral home people had filled in the grave that those of us who were closest to Kenny were going to meet at the graveside and have our own sendoff ceremony.

The Christian church funeral was for one group of his mom and elderly relatives who believe in a Christian burial. The ceremony that I planned was for another group of attendees, the flip-flop, t-shirt, and short wearers and, well let's just say it was a 'different' sort of ceremony.

Close cousins, nieces, nephews, and the many, many, personal friends who could be found over at Kenny's on any given day of the week. Those of us who helped him ingest his medicine, scratched his nose, rolled his joints, lit and held them for him, helped him get from his bed, to his chair, to outside under the apple tree, held the phone for him, opened the window and turned on the fan, gave him drinks of water, got stray itchy hairs out of his eyes, and those that drove him around, when he was in better health, to wherever he wanted to go and did whatever he wanted to do...etc....I think there is a nickname that Kenny gave to everyone at our private ceremony and we will get to those later on in this story. They good'uns.

Now, for a tad of the things I could have done without at the funeral.

The only times I have been in church, since I turned 13 and refused to continue attending because I thought it was a complete bunch of horseshit (no offense), have been for funerals. Every time I go back I am reminded of why I stopped going. This won't be a long post bitching about religion as I see it, but, I do have one gripe about the way some funerals are conducted by the preachers and Kenny's funeral was one of those funerals.

Kenny wasn't what I would call a big Christian. He believed in God and had made peace long ago...but he lived his life and never harmed a soul. The preachers who gave his eulogy didn't know him as a person. They had never gone by and spent a day with him just helping him with the simple things that the able bodied among us take entirely for granted. I'm pretty sure they never held a joint for him and probably did few if any of the other things I already mentioned. I am not judging them for that. Just sayin...

Trying to give a eulogy for someone you do not really know is trying to like...well... give a eulogy for someone you don't know. A good and proper one just can't be done. So, there was no eulogy other than the preacher saying Kenny was an angry man who he had been blessed out by and who he had blessed out back.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. The Kenny Horn I knew was not angry. He could get angry and I'm sure there were times in his life, before I knew him, that he probably was very angry and frustrated and felt hopeless before he grew to accept his paralyzed, completely dependent state. But, for the last 15 years that I knew him he was not an angry man.

The Kenny Horn I knew enjoyed life to the fullest extent possible. Yes, at one point in his life he drank moonshine, beer, whiskey, and wine and maybe smoked some shit other than weed once or twice. But don't you dare judge him on that. What in the hell would you do if the only part of your body that you had any control over was your mind and you had to live the life that Kenny Horn lived?

Day in and day out in the same room, in a fucking bed with a special air mattress, a wheel chair with a special cushion, to move you from place to place when you could gather enough strength in your mostly-paralyzed arm to push the damn button yourself,a hydraulic lift to move you from bed to chair, to bed, to chair, to bed. Having to lose all your dignity and shit and piss in bags that everyone could see, not being able to scratch your own fucking nose when it itches and having to lay there and depend on anyone....anyone for help....and hope somebody in the house hears you when you call. No wife, no sex, no children. Wouldn't you want to explore any other reality than you own, cruel, unchanging one? I would. Kenny did. And bless the folks who helped him do so.

I, personally, thank whatever beings there may or may not be for drugs, both licit and illicit, that help alter the human mind and take it to an elevated place...most especially for people like Kenny Horn, for his mind was all he had. To only have been able to experience pain and suffering and the same four bedroom or hospital walls with no natural herbal, alcohol or stimulant relief would have been a horror more terrible than any I have ever contemplated in my 35 years of life.

To say he was bitter and angry was shitty. How can one who has not lived in Kenny's state for 30 years ever bring themselves to say any such thing? Especially at a funeral?

After that brief statement the non-eulogy became a sermon about how we would all meet Kenny's fate someday and so forth and so on. Obscure bible verses...even one about a shepherd, possibly Jesus, breaking the leg of a sheep and carrying it on his shoulders to prevent it from straying from the flock. I don't recall that particular bible story from my recollections of church. The preacher was neat though. At one point he even said "sheep are the dumbest animals on earth", which struck me as quite humorous. He also claimed that he was once a drunken outlaw in Stone Mountain, Georgia and that God saved him and here he was today, a living testament to all the drankin, dope smoking, outlaws in attendance at Kenny's funeral that they could be just like him....SAVED...or at least that was how I interpreted it. At one point, because this preacher went on and on and on, I swear I heard Kenny say, "I wish'd he'd shut up so we could go smoke a joint." I told my husband about it later and he said he had a similar experience. It was very real.

No offense on the accepting Christianity offer...but I'll pass. I think eulogies should be given by friends and family members who knew the deceased best. When I die, and if I die before you, my friends and family, please get up and tell a funny story about something we did together. Share personal moments about the real me. Don't let someone who doesn't know diddly squat about me get up there and talk about dumb sheep and all that other stuff that had nothing to do with me.

Having said that, I really and truly did enjoy the whole church funeral experience. Those are traditions that I was brought up to believe in, but don't. I respect them and those who do believe them and their right to believe them. It's a very personal thing and I mean no disrespect with my description.

After the preacher was done the funeral directors got up and told us to come out row by row and view the body before the casket was closed. He also said that this particular funeral would not have a police escort. I'm pretty sure not having a police escort was a deliberate act on the part of one of the family members....probably done so because a good 85% of those in attendance are true outlaws who likely had warrants out for their arrest :) Man I really do love wild country people who refuse to bow down to authority.

Now...on to the personal send off of Kenny Horn by his friends and close family. I'm an organizer by nature so, when I first got to the church, I sought out one of the regular Kenny Crew members and told them to find all the folks who were regular features at Kenny's house and ask them to come out to the graveside after the funeral home staff had left so that we could send Kenny off in the way that he had told us he wanted to go.

C rounded up Butt Bone, Peanut, Bubba, Head, Fruitsy Fly, Pee Wee, Tootsie, Nigger Charles (a white guy who loved the rebel flag so much that Kenny sarcastically nicknamed him that)....(if that offends you I'm sorry...but it is what it is and I just can't leave it out) and about ten others I only know the real names of and won't use here, and told them of the plan. Back at the graveside about four or five other carloads of folks pulled up to join in the alternate celebration of Kenny's life. It got back to me that some industrious soul had thought to bury Kenny with a fat joint and had hidden one in his left hand so that no one could see. It also got back to me that it was probably a good thing no one could see it, otherwise Kenny might not have been buried with his favorite thing. While some of you might find that shocking I, personally, find it hysterical! Long live wild, country, poor people!

Instead of a 'WAKE', a common tradition in some cultures where the family and friends of the deceased eat, drink, and party for days on end and remember all of the wonderful moments they shared with the recently departed, we had a 'BAKE' for Kenny Horn. One participants car was pulled up right next to the grave and 'Spirit in the Sky' was played repeatedly, per Kenny's prior request. All of those mentioned above gathered round his grave, I said a few words, others shared funny stories, shock at his death, anger at the preacher who said Kenny was angry (I'm not the only one that preacher pissed off) and Kenny's kind of sacrament was passed around. Lot's of sacrament. Kenny was there with us. I could hear him saying, "Now at's wut I'm talkin bout y'all". Then his soul rose through the atmosphere on the smoke that enabled him to have enjoyment in life.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who taught me about real bravery and courage in the face of adversity. I will forever remember him and always miss his presence.

So long buddy!


Christie O'Brien said...

Thanks for sharing this with those of us who couldn't make the trip yesterday. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to meet this wonderful man.

Zach Garner said...

Thank you for writing this, Loretta

Don said...

Thanks for posting this so well-expressed from the heart post, Loretta.

Re: “At one point he even said "sheep are the dumbest animals on earth".

I would disagree with that. If humans who vote weren’t the dumbest animals on earth we wouldn’t have the government that we have.

Letters from Ripley said...

I have a personal dislike of attending funerals. No one ever really captures the real individual they are burying with words. The minister tends say enough nice things to make the family happy but usually would like to say a thing or two negative along the way.

Last week, I attended a memorial service and an associate of the deceased gave five humorous things that the guy had said or done in his life (I didn't really know the guy but he had a real sense of humor with people). It was a welcomed moment that you rarely see.

This memorial service was at Arlington, afterwards...the wagon came up and the guys put the coffin on it...with a flag detail and drummer leading the way. Behind this...came the family and about 300 of us. We walked a mile or so into Arlington. I had to admit, by the end...this was probably the best to ever go.