One Last Ride
We buried my grandfather on May 18, 2013. It was my daughter’s fifteenth birthday.
This is how his obituary read:
“Hermon Clayton Robinson, Jr., 92, widower of Barbara Melvin Robinson, died Friday, May 10, 2013. Born in Georgetown, KY, he was the son of the late Hermon C and Irma Wieland Robinson. A former food broker with AJ Seibert and farmer, he was a member of Central Baptist Church in Winchester, where he served as a Sunday School teacher and Deacon. He was the former President and Director of Members Federal Loan Bank, Vice President and Director of the Humane Society, a Life Member of the UK Alumni Association, Member and Regional Director for the Food Brokerage Association and a Life Member of the Reserve OCG Association. He was an Army veteran of WWII, serving in both the European and South Pacific Theatres, received the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge and later retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He is survived by his sons, H.C. “Rob” Robinson III, Edgewater, FL, Barry M. (Linda) Robinson, Paris, T. Grant Robinson, Lancaster, William C (Kim) Robinson, Lexington and Daniel S (Kim) Robinson, Fripp Island, SC; grandchildren Kristy (Eric) Horine, Barry M. Robinson, Jr, H.C. “Clay” (Pam) Robinson IV, Lauren (Jeff) Hendren DVM, Ashley Robinson, Chip(Kristen) Robinson, Lindsay (Lisa) Robinson; great grandchildren Hanson, Anna and Emily Cox, Berkeley, Avery and Emory Robinson and Koleton Robinson; as well as many nieces and nephews.”
And that was the entire obituary.
But it didn’t touch the surface of who and what he was.
My cousins and brother and I rode in the lone limousine that accompanied the hearse.
The driver, whose name I am ashamed to say I cannot recall, explained the process. We would exit the limousine, line up at the back of the hearse, equally distributing our strengths to the weight of the casket. There, beside the faded asphalt drive, a special ‘gurney’ for caskets. We were offered the use of it.
“We carried our Grandmother. We will carry Grandfather as well,” I spoke into the thin, still-cool air.
The cousins and brother agreed and I swelled with pride at our courage in the midst of our sorrow. I learned, growing up in a small, Central Kentucky, Southern Baptist church, that too much pride was a sin. But this much pride –just enough – was an honor and a tribute to the man whose body we would carry to rest beside my grandmother.
When we received the nothing-but-casket weight into our hands, I thought of how, back at the farm, my brother clenched his fist, flexed his jaw muscles, kept the tears from spilling over, and said, “We’ll give him one last ride. His final ride.”
His final ride.
A ride without the western saddle and Stetson hat on the back of his favorite quarter horse. (I learned to ride English, but Grandfather was Zane Grey at heart.)
A ride without the tractor that he drove on the farm as a gentleman farmer, tending to the rise and fall of Bourbon County fields. (My grandfather taught me that if a man had land, he had everything he needed.)
A ride without the faded GMC farm truck we used to load up with corn and hay for the animals in winter. (My grandfather always chuckled when Momma told the story of the cow that dented the truck with her head when the food wasn’t off-loaded in time.)
And, finally, a ride without the hospital bed that Hospice arranged in the little den for his last days. (I believe my grandfather wanted to die on the farm because it was his heart’s home, and the last place my grandmother was truly alive.)
His final ride was, indeed, without all of those things. But it was with us, his family, the ones who will love the animals and the land and each other. The ones who will re-tell the stories of the war, of the house with the red door on Paris Pike, of the faith and work and lessons learned.
We will fill the gaps in his obituary for the world, living out the sweat and hardness and joy and dignity of a life complete and well-lived.
After the funeral, I looked into my daughter’s face and told her I was sorry there was so much sadness on her birthday.
She wrapped her arms around my body and pressed her head deep into my neck. “I’m not,” she said.
And I guess, secretly, I wasn’t that sorry for a day of sorrows because I carried a sorrow with no regrets, having fully loved my grandfather while we shared this air.
Yes. May 18, 2013 was a fine day for one last ride.