Is it rare to come away from a funeral uplifted? I’m not sure, but uplifting certainly is an accurate way to describe Marilyn (Nickell) Gibbs’ funeral Saturday morning at the United Methodist Church in Corydon.
Marilyn, with whom I attend school at both Dry Flat and in Russell, died early Tuesday in Gainesville, Florida, of injuries sustained in a car-pedestrian accident Monday evening in Ocala.
It’s usually possible to tell a good deal about the deceased from those who gather to say goodbye, and that was the case Saturday. A crowd of about 500 filled the good-sized church, then overflowed into and filled to bursting the parish hall behind it, separated by a glass wall. Every age and approach to funeral attire was represented, from young to old, boots and jeans to suits, ties, heels and Sunday-go-to-meeting dresses.
I’m still a little worried about the women of the little United Methodist Church in Millerton, just north of Corydon, which Marilyn and her husband of 45 years, Floyd, attended. As we left after the service, they were preparing in the Corydon church kitchen to feed the multitude after graveside rites at the Corydon Cemetery.
Co-officiants were the Rev. Diane Olson Schroeder, just assigned last year as associate pastor in a parish that includes Corydon, Millerton, Sewal and New Zion, a country church west of Corydon, and the Rev. Leroy Perkins, Marilyn’s senior-year classmate at Corydon High School and pastor of United Methodist Churches in Allerton, Clio and Lineville.
It was remarkable, to me at least, how all elements of the service combined to reflect Marilyn as she was --- someone who had lived each of her 63 years fully and enjoyed every minute. “She just loved everybody,” a family member said as the service closed, and that love was returned.
There always are southern Iowa moments, including at funerals. I had parked on the west side of the square, as close as it was possible to get the church, and walked up the street with two sisters, dressed identically in black trousers and black jackets. The younger was 78.
We introduced ourselves, not by name but by starting to visit, at a patch of ice near the Wayne Theater. “This is the year I learned the old-lady shuffle,” the younger sister said as we negotiated a crossing.
The conversation continued about this and that, as if we’d known each other for years, all the way to the church, where we parted in the narthex. I didn’t get their names, nor did they get mine. But that wasn’t the point.