This week my family attended the memorial service for our cousin Jennifer. As my family gathered to say good-bye to our sweet cousin, who left us far to soon, I looked around the room at the my family and I realized that I have been part of this tradition for more than fifty years. We have come together to mourn the loss of grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters and children. After I got home, I started thinking about all these occasions and the lessons I have learned and theimpact they have had on me.
As a young child, I had a lot of experience with funerals. In January of 1956, my Mother's Grandmother died and two weeks later her Mother died. In March of the next year my paternal grandfather died and in December of that year his Mother died. Three months after my Great Grandmother died, my Uncle died. So, before I was ten, I was completely capable of planning a funeral. Of course, someone else would have had to pay for it. On every occasion, the routine was the same.
We would all be in and out of my Greatgrandparents house. One evening the family would meet at Rose Funeral Home to receive friends. The room was a large hall with different areas for people to sit. This would usually last for a couple of hours and sometimes the children would talk quietly in the hall just outside the hall. We knew not to wander around the mortuary and I cannot recall anyone ever being repremanded. We were part of a serious event for our family and we knew it.
Still, it was hard to be quiet for so long. We did not have phones or ipads to amuse us. I don't remember even having colrong books or other little toys that are so common in churches today. So I would always look for my Aunt Marcene or Aunt Aileen to head toward the restroom. We could leave with an adult and all the girls would follow them. Thank goodness it was a large room, more like a lounge than a bathroom. They would go there to smoke a cigarette and we would go with them, not just for the break from having to stand quietly while friends and neighbors came by to pay there respects, but to hear the stories from from our Aunts. They might be dicussing last minute arrangements such as who was bringing what to the family dinner or who might need to stop at the store on the way home. I can't remember what they talked about, but I still remember that I loved them even more for not shooing us away.
The next day we would meet at Rose for the funeral. Rose had a place for the family to meet and they would enter the chapel after everyone had arrived. The family sat in a smaller room on the side of the chapel separated by a screen. You could see into the main part of the chapel and I always though that it would be nice to sit there. After the service, the family would be escorted to the cars that were lined up for the processional to Lynnhurst Cemetery. Lynnhurst was lined with weeping willow trees and had a gated archway at the entrance.
After driving to the cemetery and making our way to the grave site, a few last words were said, our last good-byes as well.
Then the family would go back to my Great Grandparents house to eat. The family would crowd into the small house that always had room for one more. Food would be set out on the dining table and we would go around the table in cafeteria fashion choosing what we wanted to eat and letting the Mothers would weave in and out of the line over to fix plates for the smallest children. We did't have any special order, we never had a children's table, it was all of us together as one family.
At every death we repeated this same ritual. There is a sense of comfort in this and in being confident that the worst times will bring out the best in your family. As time has passed, our family has become much larger and since we live farther apart, we don't see each as often we once did. However, when we get together, it is still very much the same. I enjoy talking to my cousins and catching up on the latest news. Although it's been more than fifty years, I can see us sitting the hallway of my Great Grandparent's house just being together.