God is love,” the thin-boned preacher said from the high-rise podium.

The grieving family danced, shook tambourines and sang, “I can only


Outside limbs were still cracking as the unrelenting ice storm of 2007 took its toll.

Pall bearers, sturdy young men, nephews and friends, carried the casket holding the earthly remains of cousin Verna Joy into the Galilean Church at Little Kansas.

Ice was falling everywhere — from the sky, the roof tops, the trees.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” was heard over and over. People who had been living without power and water for more than a week, raised their hands, stood up and gave thanks to God.

“This is a celebration,” young Bobbie proclaimed. “We are here to celebrate my mother’s life.”

And they did. Hundreds of people. Friends, neighbors, close relatives, distant relatives and even a couple of prophets.

It could have been just another funeral. But, it was not.

It was more than a funeral.

The prophets gave a “word” of warning and then a blessing.

“Repent or go to hell.”

“God is love.”

It was a celebration amid contradictions.

Life. Death. Love. Hate. Damnation. Forgiveness.

So was the scene Saturday, Jan. 20, when I traveled to my childhood home in southern Delaware County to bury my first cousin, Verna Joy (Hays) Reed. She was only 54. Young. Too young. But, a rare ailment called Picks Disease had been stealing her away for years.

People talked of faith, hope and love while Verna lay in state at the front of auditorium.

Outside, sleet fell on melting ice. Inside, people smiled as they talked of the dead.

“I didn’t know her middle name was Joy,” Pastor Leighton Reed said. “Joy. We can all have joy. She always had joy. You could see it in her eyes. But, joy does not come without repentance.”

“If you can’t bend, you will break,” the prophesier proclaimed. “And, if you break, you will shatter. It is so.

“We have seen it today. Look around. See the trees.”

It was hard not to believe. It is hard to believe.

On the way home, I saw trees as ancient as the native Cherokee. Trees as young as the children of first generation Mexican immigrants. Along the roadside, they stood. Mournful, broken ice sculptures with mounds of splintered crystal all around on the ground.

I wondered what it all meant. I still wonder.

Clarice Doyle is the executive editor of the Daily Progress.