Saturday, February 25, 2012

good grief (m)

Two days after Aunt Y died, Cousin Mary also died.  My cousins and I watched in disbelief and awe as these two women--first cousins and lifelong friends--converged onto the same trajectory at the end of their lives.   Aunt Y came from a family of 9 children.  Cousin Mary was one of 4 and her mother died when she was 14 months old.  Her family was raised in an orphanage where Aunt Y's family visited them every week without fail.  Once they left the orphanage, they came to live with Aunt Y's family for a few years.  They spent every holiday together.  They received last rites on the same day.  And now, this.

We sat with Aunt X to talk about the we do Aunt Y on Thursday and Mary on Friday?  We decided that was al ot to ask of people and, with most of the attendees being from the same family, we decided to host a double wake and double funeral.   Besides, this was more than just a coincidence.  Aunt Y never went anywhere alone.  We called a meeting with the priest and funeral director.  My cousins, Mary's next of kin, and my brothers and I were there.  As soon as the meeting converged, Aunt X nudges me and says, "Tell them."  The priest was fine with the double funeral.  The undertaker was nervous.  I pulled him aside to ask why.  "Because people get crazy at these things.  You wouldn't believe the arguments...who wants to be in the first car behind the hearse, who thinks they deserve the first row in the church, etc."

I assured him that none of that would happen with my cousins.

True to form, my cousins rose to the occasion.  This past week has been a most amazing experience for all of us.  Every day and every night, the house Aunts X and Y shared was filled with people --30 to 40 people all day.  They brought food, drinks, desserts.  They cleaned and helped Aunt X set up for everything.  We wrote the eulogies together as a team.  I did Aunt Y's with lots of input and my cousin Steven delivered it.  The whole week was a team effort. 

At the wakes, we had three rooms on the top floor of the funeral parlor where the crowd went from room to room, making sure things were "even" between the attendees for each of the women.  My friend Mary, who is Jewish, does not "do" open caskets.  She came to pay her respects and was white as a ghost.  She asked my permission to leave after 5 minutes but called the next day to say how overwhelmed she was by everything and how amazing it was to see so much love and support from a family.

The funeral was spectacular.  My sister-in-law was the music director.  She brought in a world-class organist, a violinist and a trumpeter.  A soprano, alto and tenor (my brother, Phil) sang.  When they did "Time to say Goodbye" --Andrea Boccelli's signature song--the place erupted in tears.  It was beautiful.

We went to Aunt Y's grave for the burial, and then to the next cemetary for Cousin Mary's burial.

Afterwards, we hosted a joint reception at a restaurant.  100 people attended and stayed for a few hours.

I complimented the undertaker on how well the proceedings went. He shook his head and said it would not have gone so well if the family hadn't been so accommodating.

It was a great sendoff for two extraordinary women.

No comments:

Post a Comment