Until last December, I thought the only person to have come out of a grave alive were Jesus and Lazarus. Since then, I’ve added another person to my list: Kim.
It happened at my great aunt Lydia’s funeral, held on a Monday in late December. The service was lovely. Aunt Lydia had been well-loved in the community as well as by her numerous progeny. There were tears, prayers, a message from the Bible, shared memories. Uncle Jake and Aunt Lydia’s nine children and assorted grandchildren sang a song about the worth of a mother, their voices blending in a foretaste of heavenly music. In spite of sorrow, the service had a sense of rightness to it. Lydia had been living the after effects of a stroke for seven years, without speech and with little movement. Heaven could only be better.
My sister and I slipped out of the sanctuary through a side door just before the service ended. There would be a meal in the church basement afterwards, and we were needed to help with food preparations. It was a cold and blustery day. About half the mourners–with a rough estimate of two hundred total–braved the winter weather to attend the graveside service at the Sheldon cemetery five miles away. The others came down the basement to be served jello and cookies and cheesy potatoes with ham. Elizabeth and I were still there, keeping coffee cups and water pitchers supplied, when people began arriving back from the graveside service.
Pam, Jake and Lydia’s daughter, walked in with her husband Loren. She was grinning, and he was laughing, his face collapsed and shoulders shaking. “Do you know what happened?” Pam asked. “Loren laughed all the way back here.” They told us the story.
Vernon, one of the ministers, had given the committal, he and his wife Kim standing on the opposite side of the coffin from the other congregants. He kept it short, everyone huddled and shivering inside their coats. When he had finished, he and Kim turned to leave. That’s when Kim fell down the hole.
It seems that unbeknownst to her, the excavators had dug a first grave north and south, and after realizing their mistake, had dug another across it east and west, forming a cross. The undertakers covered the mistake with green carpet, and Kim unsuspectingly stepped on the carpet.
Dad, walking directly in front of Kim and Vernon, says he looked back and she was gone. He looked down, and there she was, looking up from below the coffin, which was still above ground.
Kim says the only thing she remembers going down is the sight of my mom’s startled face, her hand moving up to cover her mouth. She found herself standing on dirt, her feet at the edge of the vault.
Loren hurried over to help. The only thing visible to him was the tips of her fingers, reaching. “Get me out of here,” she said.
Loren and Vernon pulled her out and asked if she was okay. When it seemed that she was unharmed, Loren asked a question. “Excuse me. Do you mind if I laugh?” He turned away and roared. Sally, another of Uncle Jake’s daughters, came over to report Jake’s comment: “She got into the ground before Lydia did.” All six of his girls, who had always been the giggly sort, burst into laughter. Loren was still laughing when he arrived back at the church fifteen minutes later.
Kim, after she got over her embarrassment, saw the humor of the situation and took the laughter in good spirit. She had made her trip to the underworld mostly unscathed, but during her undignified, arm-pulling return, had an arm muscle torn and had to go to the chiropractor later.
Her story became big news on Facebook. One lady commented, “She found herself in a grave situation,” and someone else said, “Up from the grave she arose.” Kim reported that she had wished she had a hole to hide in. At each successive comment, my family, gathered around the computer, burst into peals of laughter.
Kim will go down in the Mennonite hall of fame, and her story will probably live longer than she does. Years from now, maybe someone will ask, “Is that really true, or is it just a story?”
“Well, you know,” someone else will reply, “these urban legends are usually based on fact.”