Ed, Dale and I had good times for a lot of years, collecting and restoring antique phonographs and music boxes. Ed had some twenty years on Dale and me, and he generously showed the young guys all the ropes about acquiring and fixing our musical toys.
When the day came for Dale and me to attend Ed's funeral, Dale had a music box that needed my particular attention. He and I live nearly an hour's drive apart. "Should I bring it up to the church?" he asked. "We can put it in your car after the service. You think that'd bother anyone, if they saw us?"
I shrugged. "There's always somebody who could be bothered by anything. But if Ed knew, I'd bet he'd get a laugh out of it."
Dale nodded. "I wouldn't bet he never did anything like that, himself."
So the parking lot exchange went off as arranged.
In the years since, Dale and I have stayed close to Kay, Ed's wife, and John, his son, also a phonograph enthusiast. Last week, one of Kay's daughters, John's sister, died, and her memorial service was set for last Saturday. I had a music box that needed to go to Dale, and he had one he wanted me to work on. You know what we planned.
The service was to be casual, the celebration of a life, but the air in the church was heavy, no one being able to get away from the feeling that a much-loved person had died too soon. After the service, there was a reception, and after that, Dale and I made our way outside. As we were moving music boxes between car trunks, I heard a gruff voice: "Hey, what's this? You guys having a swap meet in the parking lot?"
I half-turned, saw John standing behind us, and wondered whether I might be able to melt into the asphalt. But then I saw he was laughing. Not only that, he was holding a phonograph. A man and woman standing with him were also laughing. John introduced them as cousins of his; they had bought the phonograph years before from Ed, and now that it had stopped working, John had told them to bring it to the church, and he'd take it home and fix it.
We stood around, talking, for a good fifteen minutes. John showed us some interesting structural details about the phonograph he was going to set right. Dale gave the cousins contact information for someone who could fix an early TV set. I remembered aloud the time Ed got a hot tip on the availability of a rare and beautiful phonograph. Never mind that right then, a wind and rain storm was raging through western Washington, and most of the area was without power. That's why God gave us flashlights. "Come on, Maw," Ed shouted to Kay. "We can't let anybody beat us out on this one." An hour or so later, Kay held the flashlight as Ed hauled his treasure up from a dark, soggy basement and into the car.
When we went off to our cars, everyone was smiling. Life does go on. Celebrate it any way you like.