family, friendship, Dennis Cuffel
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Funeral for a Friend(‘s Mother)

It was mid-November. It was a day of firsts. First time to ever attend a Catholic Funeral Mass. First time to be given an Easter Egg at a funeral service of any kind. First time ever seeing someone hand out money at a funeral. First time seeing someone deliver a eulogy while wearing rabbit ears. And, first time taking a photo during a funeral service (hey, if you saw someone delivering a eulogy while wearing rabbit ears, you would have taken a photo too!).

I knew the service was going to be different before I even arrived. This was, after all the funeral for my my dear friend’s mother…just 15 months after my own mother’s passing. I wasn’t confident I would even be able to make it through. But, I had to make it through…for him.

As the service began, I was initially struck by how little I knew about my friend of twenty years. Were these things I knew and and forgotten? Were these things that went in one ear and out the other? Or were these things I never knew in the first place? I seemed to remember he had siblings. Did I remember there was one brother and one sister? I seemed to remember his father had passed many years before. Did I remember he was paraplegic?  Some friend I was.

One by one family members and friends made their way to the front of the church. As they spoke a picture was painted, a picture of a mother, a friend, a teacher, a devoted parishioner. There was the daughter who spoke of a mother who taught her what it means to be a lady; the son who read the story of his mother’s life in her own words from a letter discovered among her belongings; the lifelong friend who spoke of schoolmates who had been best friends and co-workers for a lifetime. And then…and then there was my friend.

family, friendship, Dennis Cuffel“OK, everyone we are going to play a game! Everyone has to listen, and there are going to be rules!,” he shouted as he approached the microphone…wearing pink rabbit ears. He then told the story of the infamous “Cuffel Easter Egg Hunt”. He started by asking who had even heard of the Egg Hunt. Of the 90+ people there, most everyone raised their hand. “Who has participated in the Easter Egg Hunt?” Very few hands were lowered.

He went on to explain the rules of the Hunt. There were 92 eggs hidden (90 this year and 2 left over from last year that were never found). Inside each egg was, not candy, but a number. After all the eggs had been found, his mom would call out numbers.

“Number 1, who has number 1? You get a nickle.”

“Number 2, who has number 2? You get a dollar.”

“Number 3, who has number 3? You get a ‘Happy Easter’.”

This would continue until all 92 numbers had been called. Prizes ranged from 5 cents to twenty dollars to a “Happy Easter” greeting.

“Ok,” my friend continued, “when you came in you were given an egg. Everyone stand up and open your egg. Ok, if you have numbers 1 – 3, sit down and have a Happy Easter. If you have 5 – 39, sit down and…Happy Easter.” He continued until three people remained standing. “Who has number 40 (her year of birth)? You get five dollars.” He walked out into the church and handed the woman a five dollar bill. “Who has number 74 (her age at death)?” You get ten dollars.” Finally, “who has number 4 (her treasured grandchildren)? You get $20.”

He then went on to talk of his mother. The lessons he learned from her, her love of games. He talked of her spirituality, her unconditional love,  her compassion for others, her selflessness. As I sat there, I realized I knew more about my friend’s family than I thought.

Mrs. Cuffel, I never knew you, we never met. I have known your son for over twenty years. After having attended the celebration of your life,  after hearing the stories, sharing in the laughs, the smiles and the tears, I realized, through your son, I DO know you. You raised a wonderful family. You raised a wonderful man. Spiritual, compassionate, a great friend. You should be proud.

Dennis, I love you brother. Have a Happy Easter!

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9 replies
  1. Kathleen Mcclanahan-Gruhl
    Kathleen Mcclanahan-Gruhl says:

    Again . . . a wonderfully written story – told as you always do so well . . . your friend will feel so special and so honored.

  2. Dennis Cuffel
    Dennis Cuffel says:

    Thank you Jeff, this is a great tribute and honor to my mother Linda J. Cuffel. You are a wonderful friend! Love, Dennis

  3. Tara Toction
    Tara Toction says:

    Jeff that was so perfectly written!!! Thank you for sharing this experience 🙂 I wish I would have known that you were there – I would have loved to have caught up with you!!! Thank you for taking the time to honor Linda the way that you did!!!

    Tara Toction

  4. Terri Brown
    Terri Brown says:

    Thank you. Linda was a wonderful, kind person. Even though we kind of lost track of each other as our lives moved on I frequently thought of her with great fondness. My life and my late husband’s lives were better because she was in it.

  5. Patrick Leboehi
    Patrick Leboehi says:

    Jeff, I was unable to make it there that day but after reading this, i feel like i was there. Thank you for helping me relive that moment through your writings. Culturally, where i come from, it is said that death bring people closer and make their friendship and knowledge of each grow founder. Again, your writings have closed the gap i experienced by being absent on this special day for Dennis. Thanks

  6. Katie
    Katie says:

    Dear Jeff, hello my name is Katie and I am Dennis Cuffels “FAVORITE AUNT KATIE” and my beautiful sister Linda Cuffels “FAVORITE SISTER”!!! I’m the youngest of my seven siblings and my sister Linda was the oldest! As her and I would always say she was the Alpha and I was the Omega! The beginning and the end of it all! Well actually I would always introduce her to everyone as my “oldest sister” which she wasn’t all that cracked up about! Anyway I just ran across your story the other day and I had to write and thank you for a story very well written about your friend Dennis, my sister Linda and the wonderful things that you wrote about Linda’s family and friends!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR A WONDERFUL TRIBUTE TO MY SISTER AND HER WONDERFUL FRIENDS AND FAMILY!! I really enjoyed reading it and thank you for making me laugh in some of my darkest hours when I was mourning my sister’s passing! You did a remarkable job and I know for a fact that my sister Linda loved every bit of it!! So thanks again for a story well written about the best sister that I could have ever asked for!!! So thank you from the entire Kraeszig family you did a wonderful job!!!

    • Jeff Ton
      Jeff Ton says:

      Thank you for your comments regarding my post. I am glad it brought you laughter in this time. May you and your family find peace in your love of each other and of Linda this Christmas.


      • Katie
        Katie says:

        Thanks again, this will be the first Christmas without her!!! It will be very devastating and very different! I know she is happy and in a much better place with the rest of my dearly departed!!! She would want us all to be happy this Christmas she always was and loved CHRISTMAS. So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!


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  1. […] was an exciting year for Rivers of Thought: from Maranatha, The Final Chapter to Funeral for a Friend(‘s Mother), most of the year delved into the #RooseveltRiver, my journey into leadership by studying the life […]

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