Funerals and Observations

Hi World, it has been awhile.

So…remember when I said that my resolution for 2010 was to, among other things, spend more time with family and attend a church supper? As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for.

Last weekend I got the news that my Uncle Sonny had died. This was not overwhelming or traumatic news for me as I had not seen him for quite a few years, but he was my Mother’s brother and for her it was heartbreaking. It reminded me of something my parents used to say: One day you will have only your sisters and brothers so don’t fight. And that reminded me of something I read once: One day, there will be just you and your sisters and brothers, and then there will be one less, and you will all go to the funeral, and then one less…etc. …so don’t fight. I guess the trick is being among the first to go because holy smokes how depressing is that?

I wanted to be there for my Mother through a difficult time, so I took time off. The service was held in a small Baptist church in Hudson, NH. I estimated, in the ruthless corporate manner to which I’ve become accustomed, that the Baptist service, burial, and reception would take about 1/2 the time of a Catholic funeral and 1/3 the time of an Irish Catholic funeral (actually, I don’t even estimate the time of an Irish Catholic funeral, I just sign off for the day). With these calculations in mind, I figured I’d be on the road home again and able to take calls at approximatley 1 PM.

I’m being callous, I know, but I think this is the world many of us live in. Your time is divided up into 15 minute increments. Anyway, I made it to the simple little church, freezing, with it’s curved wooden pews, with all of my long lost cousins sitting in the curved wooden pews, grieving for someone lost to them, and a part of my childhood came back. There was Aunt Nonnie, but then I saw Aunt Nonnie in the other pew and realized that, d’uh. twenty years had passed in the blink of an eye, and I was actually looking at Aunt Nonnie’s daughter, Beverly. Then I saw Brian who looked exactly like his Dad as I remembered him. I saw all of the cousins, and their children and THEIR cute little babies, and it hit home, God, I’m getting a little bit old here. Chicken is old, yes indeedy. The service continued with far too many words from the minister and although there were plenty of hymns, they weren’t the ones I liked (meaning they weren’t the ones I knew the words to and could sing loudly and off key). Various children, friends and grandchildren got up to honor Uncle Sonny with their words or music.

My Mother got up to read something she had written. And I saw her. Not as the strong Mother of my youth or the friend and confidant of my adulthood, but as a sister. I saw her grief, her love for her brother, and most disconcerting, I saw that she was smaller and more fragile. I saw her bravery and her stoic New England upbringing, forthright and honest, but with humor and a little lesson. (the lesson being that we all have something to offer-we are all a work of art. Have I ever mentioned my Mother was a teacher? Lucky the child that sat in her classroom).

I saw that the time was drawing near when the child becomes the parent of the parent, offering comfort and encouragement, and whoa, that is a scary moment. As the procession proceeded to the cemetery, I saw the words posted on the church sign out front. You know what I’m talking about right, those signs with the interchangeable letters so that the message can be updated as needed? It said, “Compassion for the parent is the true sign of maturity”. It was a good message for the day. Uncle Sonny had six kids. Okay, so I got a little something out of it, too.

We went to the cemetery, with Uncle Sonny’s antique pick up truck, lovingly restored, leading the way, driven by his grandson, Tim. We laid him to rest in the freezing cold and headed back to the church for “refreshments”. For those who are close to the deceased in any funeral, God bless them. I always think how hard it must be to leave a loved one alone in the graveyard, soon to be buried, as you head head back to a celebration of their life here on earth. If you have God in your heart, I guess you assume they are coming right along with you to listen in and share a good laugh, but if you are a little bit agnostic, you might be thinking it just doesn’t seem right to leave them out.

At the church, in the basement, where all the best Church suppers are held, the mood was much lighter and as the ladies of the congregation served up finger sandwiches and casseroles, we socialized and remembered Uncle Sonny. There was punch. My mother commented that it was very good punch and she wondered what was in it. I told her it was vodka. She (a teetotaler at the most raucous of events) said she thought, that in that case, she might have another cup. And Aunt Olive thought maybe she would join her.

There were photos from years ago. There were family secrets partially revealed (what really did happen on that family vacation to Nova Scotia, anyway?). There were a lot of stories and the babies were paraded and fawned over. Relationships with long lost cousins were renewed. A family reunion was planned. We all got it: Our time here is precious and limited. Family is everything. Everything else is just…every thing else.

I didn’t start on the road home until 3 PM. It was a good, long, nostalgic day. As I pulled over on the side of the road to return a couple emails and make a phone call, I hoped that I would not lose the lesson.

I’m raising a glass of Church Punch to you, World. Hope your week did not come with a loss and that your families are well. My mom thinks you are each a Work of Art. So do I.

Take care,

  11 comments for “Funerals and Observations

  1. Anonymous
    January 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Best one yet, Chicken!


  2. Anonymous
    January 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    i'm not sure I know you all that well, but methinks this entry speaks to the core of your inner soul. Good on ya. Your kids have a wonderful teacher.
    A. Fornaciari
    PS It's cemetery, not cemetary. Hope your mom wasn't an English teacher.


  3. Anonymous
    January 18, 2010 at 12:54 am

    To follow up on my last comment, as fate may have it, I just received a call that a college friend past away late last week. RIP AC.


  4. January 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

    AF-Once I read “It's a small mind that can only think of one way to spell a word”. Not that I think you have a small mind. God, no. I just thought it was brilliant and it has been my excuse ever since. Sorry to hear about your friend. And by the way, do I know you?


  5. January 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

    By the way, Mom taught “Resource” (as they call it now)if that tells you any thing:-)


  6. Anonymous
    January 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I'll take the small minded comment as a back handed compliment. I think. Keep rockin' your spelling just as you've been doing. It adds a certain charm to an already mesmerizing blog. As for your question, “Do I know you?” How would I know if you me? For example, many people know Bruce Springsteen, but he doesn't necessarily know all of them. Now, far be it for me to compare myself to Bruce, although we do share some commonalities, but how would I know if you know me if I don't know who you are. Now I'm sure that I don't know any chickens, at least not in the biblical sense ;-)I think that the question that you might have wanted to ask is “Have we met before?” At least to that I can answer that I have lived many lives and it is possible, I guess, that our paths crossed in another century, on another planet. Who knows.
    Keep up the great work. It's quite meaningful. And funny. and strange
    PS – Resource explains alot.


  7. January 25, 2010 at 10:40 am

    AF-glad you are here keeping things interesting and policing my spelling. I can always use the guidance and apparently GG isn't reading lately-she'd be all over such a grave error as “cemetary” haha.
    P.S. “alot”? I'm disappointed, AF.


  8. Anonymous
    January 26, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Well, if we're going to be nit-picky, AF, it's “Passed away”, not “past away.”
    Just sayin'.


  9. January 26, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Stop the madness! lol All of the spelling incidence are meeningless in comparisson to Chikken's messadge. Itz the internet after all… spelling dozent count. Loved the messedge, Chicken. Sorry to hear about your uncle (unkel?). Even when somewon is not close to you, it gives you time to reflect on the deep things that we so offen ignore. The trickk is to figure out how to take the “deep thoughts” and make them werk in our daily lives. Happy 2010 to all.


  10. Anonymous
    January 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Touche, dear GG. It's good to know that someone's got Chicken's back, ya know what I'm sayin. You can call it nit-picky, however you would be more correct to call me a pr*** for calling out a mistake while making the same one myself. Don't worry, I've got big shoulders. As for the “alot” Chicken, your mom's Resource backgound reflects in the depth of your blog. One never knows what the next entry will bring. Sort of like the Lucinda Williams lyric, “Shattered words, itchy skin, dirty words and heroin.” What's around the next bend. Kepp it rollin'.


  11. January 27, 2010 at 4:10 am

    You guys are cracking me up. I am sitting here at 11 PM after not a great day laughing with tears in my eyes. Thanks. This is why I wanted to blog.


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