I had to fly back to NY this past weekend. Someone dear and wonderful died. So I had to go.
Friday night I drove from my sister's house on LI up to the Bronx for the wake. After getting ridiculously lost a couple of times- the Bronx was my dad's borough, not mine- I pulled up in front of the funeral home. I knew it was the right place when I say those nuns mounting the steps.
Funny things happen at wakes. No sooner had I set foot inside the funeral home than the Irish memory cells kicked in. "I've been here before. Now who was it we were burying that time? Ah yes, 'twas me dear auntie. Lovely girl she was. Dead, you know."
(Back, Donegal! Back, I say!)
(I know,I know. Fat chance.)
The wake was crowded. The man who died was a priest, a special friend of mine who was my spiritual director for years. From the looks of things he might have been the spiritual director of half of New York. There were nuns from four different orders, including the Missionaries of Charity- Mother Teresa's troops- and a slew of priests. They were just about the only ones wearing black. I guess funeral-related fashion has really changed.
I signed the guest book and took a seat at the back of the room.
The main difference I think, between me and most of the others present, was they had all known for months my friend was dying. With a handful of notable exceptions they were chatting and laughing in the quiet way one does at wakes, trading stories, remembering him. I realized later they were able to do this because they'd done a lot of mourning already, every time they thought he wouldn't make it through the night. So they were farther along the path than I was.
I had only received an email the day before, announcing his death and the funeral schedule. I was still in shock. Worse, I'd been out of touch with my friend for a good three years. So I felt like a fair-weather friend, as well.
I used to bake for my friend. He was a real chocoholic.
Maybe I'll make some brownies today.