Sometimes it’s easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission
My grandfather taught me that.
From one week to the next… he was hospitalized, stabilized, and, early on a Tuesday morning, at the age of 85, he died.
I flew cross-country to be with my family for the services. It was astonishing to see so many people, from so many walks of life, come to pay their respect.
I spoke with a frail, elderly man who met my grandfather way back when at the lycee in Portugal; second and third cousins flew to the States from Canada; a group of neighborhood teens sat in a corner, sharing their condolences with my grandmother; the Mayor dropped by for a few minutes and said some words; Catholic priests milled about the funeral home, murmuring prayers in English and Portuguese. At the cemetery, a hundred people stood graveside… I’d only seen so many people at one other funeral – that of a sweet, 23-year-old friend who succumbed to Hodgkin’s.
For the first time, I got it – I finally understood the point of a wake. I’d always found the practice disturbing – dressing the dead body in finery, announcing the time and place of the services for anyone to read, and then putting the person on display. It was comforting. And oddly enough, the only time I cried was when my friends appeared, showing their support for my family. I never expected that to happen.
In three weeks I flew to Seattle, flew to Providence, back to Seattle, then returned to DC, only to pack up for Massachusetts to spend time with my grandmother. They were married for 58 years. It’s amazing.