The obituary for Katherine Spates Buell, 83, named 34 surviving relatives and mentioned there were 22 great-grandchildren. While that in itself was impressive, it was this sentence that made me want to come to her celebration of life: “She loved her family, her many, many dear friends, Lobo basketball, the casino, an occasional margarita, and a good piece of chocolate.” How could I resist?
At least 200 people filled the sanctuary at St. John’s United Methodist Church. While a fairly new building, it had a traditional church look with stained glass windows of bible scenes and a big pipe organ at the front. Katherine’s cremated remains were in a lovely ceramic urn at the front with half a dozen flower arrangements. Everyone was asked to stand as the family came in… and this was a big group that filled the first four pews.
Rev. Craig Cockrell read the obituary, which named the 34 living family members. That took a while. He added, “We never know what imprint we leave in life. The mark we leave behind is not memorials and statues, but the living family and friends who remember us is our best memorial.”
We all stood to sing the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Two weeks into the 30 Day Challenge, I can sing all the verses by heart. Not bad for a Jewish girl. There were also passages read about Jesus being the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, a prayer for Katherine, a reading from Ecclesiastes (To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven), and another passage which was not identified.
Then Don Gilbert got up and read the eulogy titled “My Mom” by Cynthia Gilbert, one of Katherine’s daughters. Katherine was the family data bank, the glue that held them together, the newspaper reader and list keeper. She kept track of the entire family, rejoiced in their successes and consoled them in their failures. She could always be relied upon for a piece of chocolate, a glass of wine, or an Oreo cookie as appropriate.
Katherine had seven children in ten years, an achievement none of her children sought to replicate. With nine people in the household, there was unending laundry hung on the line, dishes in the sink, and ongoing chaos that Katherine sought to tame with various systems that didn’t last long. She had an incredible work ethic and worked outside the home at a bank, even with a house full of children.
She was widowed in 1982, when her husband of almost 40 years died. The kids were concerned about how she would take this, but she wasn’t alone long. A customer at the bank who had lost his wife at about the same time asked her to lunch. The kids joked that lunch date lasted 20 years. Katherine was widowed again in 2002.
Katherine filled her life with family and friends, and she lived colorfully. She used the Mariachi Security System, believing that playing mariachi music loudly was the strongest deterrent to burglars. Plus it provided music to dance to when she came home. She loved specific TV shows: Wheel of Fortune, Lawrence Welk, Joel Osteen, and The Amazing Race. She got her hair done every Friday morning and was always doing her fingernails.
Rev. Clyde Stanfield provided some biblical stories that related to Katherine’s approach to life. The service finished with a photo-montage of her life and family, set to the song “I Hope You Dance.”
Katherine Spates Buell lived well, laughed often, and loved much. May we all live our lives to the fullest as she did.