ERNIE BROWN JR. A peaceful passing, a new beginning
I will remember June 23, 2001, for a long time.
On that Saturday, I experienced two poignant family events the same day within hours of each other.
I attended my aunt Lillian M. Curry's funeral at 10:30 a.m. at Antioch Baptist Church and, at 3:30 p.m., I was at Rising Star Baptist Church to witness the wedding vows of my brother's oldest son, Corey Brown, and his bride, Jada Herod.
Adding to the uniqueness of the day was that I was filled with joy at both.
Funerals are usually sad events as the curtain falls on the final act of one's life.
There were tears, of course, but also a lot of smiles and laughter.
My aunt lived a hard, but fulfilling life. She reared seven children -- Alonzo Jr., Linda, Charles, Kathy, Elaine, Verna and Steve -- for years on a meager salary and with help from family and friends.
By grit and determination, she was able to move her family from their small apartment in the Kimmel Brook Homes to a home on Himrod Avenue on the city's East Side.
My aunt had a knack for health care. She had lots of practice with seven kids.
She worked as a nursing assistant at the former Woodside Hospital and for the Visiting Nurses Association. She entered Choffin Vocational School's nursing program in 1969 and, in 1971, graduated as a licensed practical nurse.
She served as a nurse for Youngstown city schools and had a long career at Forum Health Northside Medical Center, retiring in 1995.
Aunt Lillian got sick in the last year. On June 19, she breathed her last breath.
Memories: The things I remember best about her are that she was determined to succeed, was a positive person, and loved to give encouragement.
When I got my job at this newspaper, she was the among the first to call with congratulations. When the paper promoted me to an editor's position, aunt Lillian said she was proud of me.
My dad and his brother, Amos, better known as Uncle Skip, are both in wheelchairs now. It was my aunt who visited both her brothers-in-law on a regular basis.
When she would visit Uncle Skip, she would help him with the telephone and make sure he called my dad to see how he was doing. My dad's smile would get as wide as an open door when he heard his brother's voice.
With aunt Lillian gone, those telephone calls have stopped.
My mind flashed back to these and other memories as the Rev. Ernest Ellis, pastor at Antioch, began his eulogy using Psalm 46:1 as his text. The Scripture says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
He pointed out my aunt was active in her community and in the church. She never failed to call on God when tough times came. She enjoyed studying the Bible, from which she derived her inner strength.
My aunt's relationship with God was solid because it was based on her faith and trust in Jesus Christ, Pastor Ellis said.
Therefore, he said, we ought to rejoice because she is at home in heaven. Her pain and suffering is over.
The church on Funston Street then reverberated with praise, joy, tears of happiness mingled with those of loss, and gospel music from the church choir resounded throughout the edifice.
It was nearly 1 p.m. by the time I left Belmont Cemetery after spending time with cousins and relatives I hadn't seen in years.
New beginning: As I hurried home to dress for Corey's wedding, I felt invigorated and happy. I enjoyed myself at a funeral.
My nephew was resplendent in his off-white tuxedo, and he smiled like the Cheshire cat from "Alice in Wonderland" as he watched Jada being escorted down the aisle by her father, James.
I admit having a tear in my eye as Jada sang a lyric to her new husband from "All The Man That I Need" by Whitney Houston.
A funeral and a wedding. One, a tribute to a life well-lived, the other, a celebration of two lives coming together with the hope of a blessed and happy future.
And I was pleased and honored to have been there to witness both.