Holding Together


This was my fourth funeral in six weeks.  I’m hoping the grim reaper will look elsewhere for a while.  I feel as if I am sitting shiva, alone with the deceased, in a room of people I do not know.

The father is my cousin and I have spoken with him and his wife when I came into the room full of chairs and sat closer to the back.  I think it odd that the father is wearing a purple shirt and his wife is in purple print.  Then I see that others are also donned in that color and the young man in the casket is wearing a purple shirt and tie and the casket is lavender.  Ah, it must have been his favorite color and people are honoring that.  A girl he worked with is wearing a tee shirt promoting buttermilk pancakes.

We come together at these hard times, hug, shake hands, murmur condolences, look for our strength in the extended family group.

In time a brother of the father and his wife come in and they sit with me.  We talk softly and I learn that she does the weeding and flower bed care for three local churches on a volunteer basis and I am touched by her generosity of spirit.  Later my youngest aunt and her youngest granddaughter arrive and fill the chairs behind me.  Ellen asks me if Aunt Philomena was the eldest of her siblings and I say no, that my father was the eldest.  Then I recite the order and when I came to Bob, I said Bernie first, then corrected myself saying “…Bob, then Bernie.”  With that Bernie gave me a thump on the shoulder with her rolled up umbrella saying “Get it right!”  I turned and said she gave a whole new meaning to she’s got my back.

I walked around and talked to family I have not seen in at least the last year and introduced myself to the mother of Joey’s daughter, then the mother of his two sons.   As the evening was getting close to the end of the wake, my cousin Jerry invited us to his home for a bite to eat and to relax.  Most of us did drive down the main road in town and were greeted by his wife, Laura, and we made ourselves sandwiches and sat at the large kitchen table and beer was offered and accepted and chips and pretzels followed by cookies and coffee were eagerly enjoyed.

The next morning as we assembled in the parking lot of the funeral home and the man was putting the little flags on the cars, he wanted to know if I was a member of the family, and how was I related, before he directed me to a place in line and plunked a flag onto my car.  I found Raymond and said my car was in line, he should come with me, which he did as he folded himself into my little vehicle and finally adjusted the seat to make himself a bit more comfortable.  It had been raining lightly so many of us were wearing grubby shoes with our dressy outfits.

As we drove along Raymond was busy pressing buttons on the dashboard so that the cool air was suddenly and for the first time all summer cooling the car down.  Ah, I had been pushing the wrong buttons – of which there are many and none with the simple A/C printed on them.

After the ceremony in the cemetery we drove to the Veterans Hall for a luncheon.  The good thing about a small town is that everything is within a short range of everything else so we found some empty chairs and after eating we spent time milling around and I took some pictures that were not great, but I did get several people in them.

People began to leave after parting thoughts with the grieving family and I drove Ray back to his car at the funeral home.  Then I drove across the street and walked around a house which has several of my cousin Jerry’s current sculptures situated in both the back and front yards, taking pictures of each.  He seems to have an affinity for the giant heads on Easter Island.  When I posted the pictures of the sculptures on Face Book, Bernie commented “EEEEk!”  which left me laughing out loud.


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