My sister whose home is in Kentucky called with sad news. “Uncle Herm passed away at 1 p.m. today.”

Herman Glen McCoy, one of my mother’s four brothers, was the last living McCoy patriarch of the Floyd and Ollie McCoy lineage. I happened to be his “pick”, as they say in Appalachia, of all his nieces. And the feeling was mutual when it came to my uncles.

I informed my two daughters of Uncle Herm’s death. Once my cousin confirmed the funeral arrangements, I secured my house, cat, and hen sitter for my dates away. I reviewed the map from Detroit to my destination, consulted my Kentucky sister for the best route.

“Take I75 to the Mountain Parkway. It’s the most direct with the best roads to our house.”

I agreed.

However, my daughters said, “Mom, we don’t want you travelling alone.”

“I did last October and survived,” I replied.

The older child lives in California, and the younger couldn’t leave her work, so I had no other option.

Doubt dogged me a bit as I drove south on I75. Yet, once I crossed the Cincinnati Bridge and the Ohio line, confidence lifted my shoulders. Miles later, my heart raced with expectation when I exited I64 south of Lexington onto the Mountain Parkway.

I was going home, alone, to Uncle Herm’s funeral, and cried like a baby.

My heart leapt when the Appalachian foothills appeared before me. I passed the familiar signs for the Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge, remarkable sightseeing destinations that draw mountain climbers and hikers from the world over.

My longtime favorite vacation place, I could never imagine the natural beauty hidden within those rolling, overlapping mountains. Then, one summer drive south to Peter Creek with our girls, my husband at last agreed to take the Natural Bridge exit for our girls to experience the chairlift.

However, no place on this planet rivals my homeplace, Peter Creek. For that’s where I come from, where a remnant of my McCoy and O’Brien folk still dwell along the creek’s banks in bottoms and hollers.

That’s where my sisters and brothers-in-law and I gathered before Uncle Herm’s casket in the sanctuary of Cornerstone Apostolic Church last week for our last farewell.

The choir sang, “The Lord is my Shepherd, He goes before me, Defender behind me. I won’t fear. I’m filled with anointing, my cup’s overflowing. No weapon can harm me, I won’t fear. Hallelujah, I am not alone. He’s my Comfort, always holds me close.”

“He always guides me through mountains and valleys. His joy is refreshing, restores my soul.”

Yesterday, as I drove home in the most perfect weather possible, I glimpsed the Mountain Parkway in my review mirror. Again, those ancient mountains, ever faithful, caressed one another in blessed assurance we are never alone.

Dear Reader, let us be like mountains. Let us wrap our arms around one another in brotherly and sisterly love. Let us be places where people may run to when mourning.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com