My father-in-law, Raymond Coppage, passed away a week ago last Monday in Vero Beach, Florida. Since I've already said what there was to say about him, I'll move on to something that would really matter to him.
We got to Vero late Monday evening to find grieving family and friends. And a kitchen full of food. With more promised.
Baptists are known for putting out a spread when one of their own passes away, and this wake (not a Baptist term, but it fits) would last four days and several meals.
Someone had brought casseroles, a Baptist staple at dinner-on-the-ground and funerals. We blew through that food in about twenty minutes. It didn't help that there were four children, their spouses, thirteen grandchildren and some of their spouses, assorted brothers and sisters, and some strangers who happened to smell the Baptist cooking and just stopped by to eat.
My brother-in-law is a regional manager for Publix Supermarkets, and Tuesday was Publix day at the house. We all got excited about the prospects of Publix fried chicken. If you can't have Mama's fried chicken, then Publix is the next best thing.
Alas, Publix fried chicken was not to be.
You'da thunk that among the numerous Baptists in and out of the Coppage household that week somebody, somewhere, sometime, would have brought at least a leg or thigh. But no.
I've been away from Baptists for so long I've lost touch with what they're thinking. Apparently they've gone healthy on me in my absence. No fried chicken at a funeral? Unheard of, and definitely un-Baptist.
Wednesday, Publix brought spiral-sliced ham. Three of them, to be exact.
Now I'm a cooked-hog fan from way back, but three hams is a lot--even for me.
Still no fried chicken.
Thursday, the day of the funeral, someone brought spaghetti and salad for lunch. Baptist spaghetti? Unheard of.
After the funeral the family--all 153 of us--returned to the church for supper.
Ah, finally. Fried chicken, as far as the eye could see. Platters of bird covered an entire table.
Raymond would have been ecstatic. He could clean a chicken leg bare in one bite.
I felt safe as I stood back in the line, secure in the fact that there would be plenty of fried chicken for me to choose from when I finally reached the Promised Land.
At 6:13pm I reached the Fowl Table. Nothing left.
Oh, the preachers had some chicken. As did the singers and piano players. Even the grandchildren, who would have eaten fruit out of a blender, had chicken on their plate. Everybody had chicken. Except me.
Now I know that the eating was not what we were there for. In my quest for crispy thighs, I was simply trying to honor Raymond Coppage in the best way I knew how. He'd be looking down on me from that Great Covered Dish Supper in the Sky, plate piled high with all that Heaven had to offer. I'd look up with a mouth full of chicken and say "Mh lothd uoo, mh phstf".
Instead, I ended up with some kind of roast beef and some green beans.
I guess I'll eat healthy from now on. But I'll sure miss fried chicken.