To Rest in Peace on Mackinac 10/6/2010

How do you write a blog about a funeral? 

I’ve never even imagined doing that.  And even when a dear friend, whose husband was laid to rest on the island, offered to share the beautiful photographs another friend had taken of the service – I still didn’t know if I could write it.  It was just too . . . personal.

The subject came up when Frankie and I were having lunch last Friday.  I knew Frankie’s husband had passed away almost two years ago, but I did not know he was buried on the island.  We were talking about the fall photographs I had been taken at the cemeteries last week and how beautiful the trees there had been.  And Frankie said, “I have photographs of Darryl’s funeral, and I’d like you to share them with your readers.  It’s a part of Mackinac you’ve never written about, and it’s something your readers should know.” 

I didn’t know what to say.  We walked down to Frankie’s, and she showed me the photographs on her computer.  And they were so beautiful, so poignant, so simple – that I said, “Yes, I will try to write this story and make you proud you offered to share it.”

So this is the story of Darryl Thill’s journey to the place he asked to be laid to rest – in a cemetery on Mackinac Island. 

There is only one hearse on Mackinac Island, and it is kept in the Carriage Museum. When needed, it is wheeled out of that building, cleaned, and polished to a high gloss. A matched team of horses are hitched, and they pull the hearse to wherever it is to receive the casket. In Frankie's case, her husband's casket was transported to the island on a ferry from the mainland, and the hearse was waiting at the ferry dock.

Friends and family rode ahead of and behind the hearse in taxis. Others attending followed on bikes or were already waiting at the cemetery.


Darryl passed away in October, 2008, only a couple of weeks later than it is now. From the photographs, the trees look further along than they are now, with a lot of the trees having lost their leaves completely. The leaves lining the sides of the road look almost like a red carpet, divided by a strip of pavement just wide enough to allow the passage of the carriages.

Turning at the corner of the cemetery and continuing on the road that would eventually lead to Fort Holmes . . .

. . . and then making the turn into the gate that marks the "new" part of the cemetery.

As the driver stands out of respect, the pallbearers lift the casket from the hearse . . .



When Frankie and her husband purchased the two lots in the cemetery, she had no idea how soon one of them would be needed. She believes that God arranged the circumstances to happen as they did so when the time came, everything would be ready.

As I know you have noticed, the grave is not dug before the casket arrives. When the family leaves the gravesite, the casket remains on top of the ground. Within a few hours, the grave is prepared and the casket lowered into it.

This photo is out of sequence, but I thought it should be last. As the hearse traveled that October day through the golden woods, it passed through a patch of light shining through the trees. The photographer was standing in just the right spot to capture that split second when the sun's rays fell over the casket. It is this photograph that Frankie cherishes the most.

I’ve  stood in the cemeteries on Mackinac many times, taking in the silence and thinking, “Where else in the world could there possibly be more peace than here?”  There are very few concrete monuments to a person’s life on these hallowed grounds, but man-made monuments are not needed.  In the spring, there will be budding trees and gentle rains.  In summer, flowers will bloom everywhere.  In fall, colorful leaves will drift down from golden trees and rustle across the ground in the breeze.  And in winter, a pure white blanket of snow will cover all those who rest here.  The serenity of nature is all the monument most of us need – and after all, it is God-made.

My sincere thank you to Frankie for opening this very personal part of her life to my readers.  God bless.


39 thoughts on “To Rest in Peace on Mackinac 10/6/2010

  1. This article was beautiful. I too have stood in that cemetery by myself and thought…how peaceful it is, then thought of the people buried there. Did the island affect them like it does me?

    I’d like to thank your friend for suggesting this article and for you to write it. What a wonderful way to say goodbye to a loved one. Thanks much Bree.

  2. God just makes my life a blessing over and over and just when you least expect it he blesses you with a friend with a gift for writing. And she in turn gives you the chance to share a tribute to a wonderful man.
    Thankyou Brenda you have given Darryl a huge honor.
    Love you Frankie

  3. Thank you Frankie for letting Bree share with us readers how a funeral is attended to on the island. The last picture is so sad and yet so beautiful with God’s rays shining down on the hearse and casket as if saying your loved one is now home with me.

  4. Thank You Frankie for sharing your photos with us.

    Bree- you represented Frankies family with dignity and respect and those photos are truly priceless. How wonderful to know that those people buried on the island are truly at peace. Thank You for your blog and all that you do to share the island with us.

  5. Whenever my son sees the sun’s rays shining down as shown in the last photo, he always tells me, “Mom! It’s Jesus!” How beautiful that Jesus reached down from above that day to embrace those who were there.

    Remembering Darryl, and our love to Frankie.

    Thank you Bree, for your gentleness in sharing a personal moment.

  6. Absolutely beautiful… thank you to Frankie for sharing such a personal story. And thank you, Bree, for sharing it with those of us who love that Island so very much.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing Frankie’s story. As hard as it must have been to create, I think this is one of your most well written posts to date.

  8. What a beautifully written story Brenda and a big thank you to Frankie for sharing such a personal part of her life with us. It is a side that we don’t think alot about, but yet it happens all the time. I can see why Frankie holds that last picture so dear to her heart, it is truely beautiful. God shining down on Darryl…RIP

  9. You told a wonderful story. What a wonderful way to exit this world. The last photo shows the stairway to heaven, no wonder Frankie loves it so much.

    My father will be leaving us any day now and it would have been wonderful if he could have exited the way Darryl did. Dad would have been 100 on Nov. 9th.

    Thanks to Frankie for sharing those pictures. We would have never known about his beautiful. Thanks to you for telling us! Thanks to the photographer for the lovely pictures. It was a beautiful day.

  10. Frankie, what a generous sharing of a most personal moment and what a tribute to Brenda knowing she would treat this trust with such dignity and beauty. This has to be one of the most serene places on earth for our earthly remains. Beautiful and moving. The picture of the sun’s rays on the hearse is a definite “God wink”.

  11. Thank you Brenda for so graciously telling this private part of Island life, and thank you Frankie for sharing such a personal and loving time from your life.

  12. Thank you again for sharing the wonderful world of Mackinac with us. I can hardly believe that another season of your stay is ending. I also appreciate your taking us into the lives of the precious people who live there, through their joys and their grief. I feel so connected and yet I’ve never been there.

  13. I agree with Frankie, that last picture is the best. God is creepy (in a good way) sometimes with how He works things out.

  14. Dear Bree,

    You wrote this eloquently. I’m sure you shed a tear while writing it also.
    Bless Frankie for her loss, I can’t imagine losing your best friend.
    While serving on the island with the scouts the walk back to Post Cemetary is the most solemn and repectful.

    Thank you both for sharing your story.

    Pat Steele

  15. Truly your best blog yet. So beautiful yet so emotional. How nice of Frankie to share her photos with us. I would have never thought of taking any pictures at a funeral. Very beautiful idea. I am so sorry for the loss of her husband. He sure rests in a very beautiful place.

  16. Never have I seen or read a more beautiful tribute. Brenda, you have a beautiful and eloquent gift for writing. I was deeply touched as I read the story and followed the sequence of pictures.
    Thank you Frankie for sharing such a personal journey. I’m sorry for your loss and pray God’s continued blessings on you and yours.

  17. Thank you for sharing such a touching yet very interesting story. The last picture is amazing. God really does shine down on Mackinac Island. What a lovely resting place. I have only been past the cemetery on a taxi. I hope to visit it when I am there next weekend. 9 days and counting. I can’t wait to get on the ferry and see the island getting closer. I’m so excited!

  18. Brenda, this was beautiful and no one could have expressed this tender moment better than you. And Frankie, thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life with all of us. I enjoyed getting to spend time with you on our recent visit to the island and I look forward to getting better acquainted next spring. Love to you both….Patty

  19. Thank you Frankie for sharing such precious momets with us, and thank you Bree for telling it so beautifully. How special they were to experience all the nature of it all, what a blessing a great tribute to there love one…..Debra

  20. I was recently made aware that several of the photo’s I took of Darrell’s funeral were posted here. I too prize the photograph I took with the sunlight on the casket. I was unaware that they would be used in this way.

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