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I was moved by the community as Ernest and I experienced it when we went
home to Georgia to bury Mama Clay (12/31/98) and Daddy Clay (1/12/99).
Strangers continue to stop on the roadside as funerals pass. Neighbors
continue to bring great quantities of food to the family of the bereaved,
to feed the endless stream of those who come to console. The church at
each funeral was different, and each had a meal after the burial for the
several hundred who attended.
My birth family is radically reduced, with only four first cousins left.
My family by marriage is huge. Clifton and Mae Dell Clay had 8 children
together, and Clifton had three more children by another marriage. They
lived to 79 (Clifton) and 73 (Mae Dell) and at death had 46 grandchildren
and 42 great-grandchildren.
I am one of only two white members of the family. I was struck by how
little notice was made of this. Small children are the give-away, with
their candor. Since I have been in the family for a quarter of a century,
many who are now adults were children when we married. I have always been
Brother Louie or Uncle Louie for them. Some of the more recent children I
had not seen. I was Uncle Louie for them too. Not once did I hear, or
overhear, a child saying "Who is that white man?" Nor did anyone go out
of her way to make me feel comfortable. They all rightly perceived that I
am comfortable, that I am integral in this holy family.
Once when a neighbor arrived, she teased my sister-in-law saying, "I see
you have the company doing dishes." "He's not company: he's my brother,"
"Love vaunts not itself, seeks not its own."
I look forward to the day that the Episcopal Church can more widely enjoy
this experience of love.
Louie Crew, English Dept., Rutgers, Newark, NJ 07102 973-485-4503
Chair, Rutgers University Senate. Board of Governors.