If I could just share one more memory from my dad’s funeral.....You will remember that Daddy was a doctor. And for many of the years in which he practiced medicine, penicillin was the go-to drug and it was administered in the form of a shot. With a shot needle. In the butt. And it hurt like the dickens! Well, his obituary had mentioned that Daddy, being a compassionate soul, always handed out a stick of Fruit Stripe Gum following his assault with the dreaded shot-needle. That was the new gum on the block back then and I remember the jingle so well:
Yipes, stripes, Beech Nut’s got ‘em
Yipes, stripes, in Beech Nut gum
Yipes, stripes, five different flavors
Get Beech Nut Fruit Stripe Gum!
Anyhow, as the obit began to circulate in the community, people would come up to us and say, “Yeah! I remember that Fruit Stripe Gum!” (Needless to say, WE never got Fruit Stripe Gum or anything like that as a reward for good behavior, which meant not crying when he gave you a shot.)
So we thought that at the viewing it would be a nice tribute to Daddy to have a bowl of Fruit Stripe Gum sitting by the guest book. But could you even buy it anymore? We didn’t know. So, of course, we went on the Internet to see. Oh, yes, it was still available, but not at our local grocery store. We could have traveled a few miles down the pike to get some but that was just one more thing to do in a day that was already pretty much filled to the brim. So we nixed that idea.
Shift now to the graveside service. Daddy was in the Navy in World War II, so the flag on his coffin had been folded and handed to me (as the oldest), Taps had been played, and "Uncloudy Day," the last song we’d sung for Daddy, had been sung one more time. The preacher, Grady Walden, said a few final words and recited a poem. I was ready for Grady to say the final prayer when he said, “I’ve got one more thing to leave with the Hicks Sisters.” And, of course, I thought it was going to be some final words of wisdom or comfort. Instead, he tells the story of Daddy and how he rewarded good behavior following a shot. Then he reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out five packages Fruit Stripe Gum! “Do you know how hard this stuff is to find?” he says. Oh, yes, we knew. He went down the line, there where we were sitting in the front row of funeral chairs by Daddy’s grave, and handed each of us a pack of gum. Unbelievable. And through the tears, we were laughing. Which is exactly what we needed to do. Thank you, Grady!