Telling Family Stories: Get Low
Storytelling as an effective tool in teaching the skills and the attitudes that build and maintain resilience. These are often family stories. Reaching Home contains a number of mine. One of my family stories that I have heard throughout my life but did not include in Reaching Home was the story of Felix “Bush” Breazeale. The story has recently been made into a film that stars Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek.
The story is set in the late 1930s in east Tennessee. The main character, “Bush,” as a young man was arrested for a murder that he says he did not commit. He was released by the Court but was ostracized by the community. He lived with his parents until their deaths and continued to live by himself into his mid-seventies when he decided that it would soon be time to “get low.” He decided he would plan his own funeral, but he wanted to have it before his death so that he could hear what people would say about him and indeed had been saying about him for the last 40 years. With the help of a funeral director who saw an opportunity to make some money, he organized a “Funeral Party.”
The film lacks some accuracy. The funeral took place in the early summer, not the winter and, according to my parents who attended, was indeed more of a party than a solemn wake which is how it is portrayed in the movie. The funeral was attended by thousands of people from the surrounding counties and states and apparently resulted in my distant relative, “Bush,” being accepted again by his community. In fact, he became a bit of a celebrity being asked to throw out the first baseball at one of the local games. “Bush” died 4 years later and was buried in the wooden coffin that he had made for his first funeral. One might say that his “Funeral Party” was an example of resilience, but certainly an odd one.