Old Friends, Death and Bluegrass



Stan Garrison died recently. I never knew the man, but his daughter was a classmate and his sons John and Don are among my best friends. So when Jay sent word that there would be a visitation over the weekend, I packed up the Wife and the Son in the rental car and made the long drive to Osceola.


(We took a rental car because Lar doesn’t like putting miles on her new car and we don’t trust my car beyond the range of St. Louis motorist assist.)


Visitation was to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bear Creek Church. Six hours seemed like a long time to visit but Jay said he wouldn’t get there much before 3:30 so that seemed more reasonable. Now we just needed to find out how to get to Bear Creek Church in Osceola. I have never been to Osceola. I emailed AB for directions.


Osceola is about 30 miles north of Stockton on highway 13. Bear creek church is east of Osceola on 82 highway about 6 miles or so. You have to turn north off 82 but I’m sure there is a sign.


Aside from “I’m sure there is a sign” not being the most detailed of instructions, I do not do “turn north” or “north of” or “east of.” I am not a compass. I need “turn left here” or “turn right here.”


I turned to Google Maps, hoping that it had heard of Osceola. To my surprise, it had. I got AB and Jay’s phone numbers just to be sure.


After stopping to visit with the family for a bit, we got out our instructions and made our way down the hills and curves of Highway J to 54 to 13 to Highway 82. Osceola, we learned from billboards, is famous for its cheese. Sadly, we did not have time to stop and buy some.


“Is that a Confederate flag?”




“There was a Confederate flag hanging outside that house.”


“There’s another one!”


“Well, we’re not in St. Louis anymore.”



“I wish this car didn’t have New York license plates.”


We wound up on an old country road where there was a sign “Bear Creek Church.” We followed a couple of signs and wound up at your classic old country church in the middle of nowhere. There were many cars and pickups parked in the area. I now understood why Lar refused to bring her car.


Once inside we were greeted by Don and AB and Don’s little one. John joined us and dropped the bombshell news of his upcoming marriage. Jay showed up a few minutes later.


photo-32The pews were pretty packed at Bear Creek Church. Up front there was a television showing family photos. People would go up and share stories. There was a big spread of food in the adjacent hall. These Bear Creek people know how to throw a visitation. Got caught up on people’s lives and shared many old stories. Old stories never get old.



At some point John got his guitar and joined a half-dozen more senior gentlemen on the stage. They began playing bluegrass and picked and grinned for quite a while. I had some doubts about making the long drive down earlier in the week but I’m glad we did it. It’s always good to connect with the old gang.

When I die I’m putting John in charge of my visitation. It’s a shame I’ll miss it.






















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