SMALL TOWN FUNERALS
I grew up in a small community, not even a town, went to a small town college and have taught at a couple of small town schools, one being Landrum. Like the home of my birth Landrum has grown some in the last twenty years but it still has small town looks, small town feel and most importantly small town ideals. This past Friday I sat inside of the First Baptist Church and contemplated what all of that meant. I was attending Brian Kuykendall’s “going home” memorial. Part revival, part musical, it was all love and a wonderful tribute to Brian, his family and his legacy.
While not a huge church, it is the biggest one on Main Street even if it is the only one on Main Street, an oddity in area that sports more churches than “you can shake a stick at.” It was bursting at the seams when I got there and was filled to standing room only by the time the service began. With the fire department in attendance I don’t think there were any worries about the fire marshal closing it down. For a moment I contemplated how a burglar might find this to be a beneficial day to be working with the number of townspeople and policemen attending. Fire trucks were parked outside while the Landrum firemen dressed in uniform served as pall bearers and the rain that fell only added to the sense of gloom. Even inside, what little talk could be heard seemed to be muted. All of that changed once the memorial began.
As one of the ministers talked about Brian’s competitiveness I succumbed to a bad habit, daydreaming. While I should have been concentrating on the minister it was too easy to drift back twenty years. On the football field in my mind I found myself standing on an opponent’s field wondering if it was a requirement for small town football for one of the goal posts to be crooked. When I mentioned this to head coach Jimmy Cox, he cracked, “The way we are scoring on offense it probably won’t be a problem.” Only Eighteen to twenty football players had welcome me to my first meeting with the team and I could not help but wonder about our size, numbers not weight and height. One of those players was Brian.
Brian was competitive, a good thing because he wasn’t the biggest kid in the world…or the most athletically gifted. I think that Brian tasted victory six times in the two years that I was there. For Brian it wasn’t about winning, although it hurt him to lose. Brian was truly all about being the best that he could be and I am not being trite or mocking when I say that. As the memorial continued it was apparent that he had passed philosophy on to his sons and many of the kids that he coached. It was a tenet that was repeated several times during the service Brian proves that being on a poor football team does not define you in life. Brian’s life would have been portrayed as an undefeated season as could many of the lives of kids who played the game. Brian truly had become the best he could be.
It was a ceremony dedicated to love. Not the love for him, which was ample, but the love that was apparent for his wife, his family and his community. Love begets love and it was clear that even for a small town, there were buckets of love and his memorial was a fitting tribute. Brian left behind a lasting legacy that will continue to live through his family, Tammy, Kaleb, Dalton and CJ. It is also a legacy that will continue through his church, the community and the youth athletic association.
As the funeral procession slowly moved toward Brian’s final resting place I was again struck by small town ideals. A police car lead the procession followed by fire trucks. Another police officer held and directed traffic at the main traffic light. You just don’t see that anymore anywhere other than small towns. “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?” I think Brian answered that question. I know Landrum is happy Brian stayed in his home town even if his stay was much too short.