I saw my best friend, Renee, last Sunday for Easter. We had a girls’ weekend at her place in Arlington, VA. While I was there, we spoke with her aunt on the phone, who was positively giddy over her husband’s recent recovery from heart-valve surgery. Renee has seen quite a lot of her aunt and uncle over the past months, since he had been through several procedures at a DC hospital near her. He was pretty sick for a long while.
Aunt Connie happily told us that Uncle Nick was doing so many things he hadn’t done in such a long time… mowing the lawn, doing laundry… (Of course, I had to tease the dear 70-something-year-old about the whip and mask sex toys Renee had brought to them at the hospital to lighten things up.) They had married just out of high school, but she sounded like a love-struck teenager. She said she “got a good one,” and I had no doubt about that.
So, it was with irony that only the Universe can muster, that this remarkable man was out running errands with his grateful and relieved bride and was struck by a car and killed last Thursday afternoon before her very eyes.
Renee jumped into the car immediately after her aunt’s call and made her way to Pennsylvania to comfort her. When she asked Renee how she was going to go on without him, Renee answered, “You’re going to find out,” which I thought was so honest and fair.
I decided to drive up for the services today, both to pay my respects to this dear aunt, and to be a support for Renee, who was struggling to be the strong one for everyone else.
This aunt is the sister of Renee’s mother, who has been estranged from all four of her children for nearly 3 years. She was going to be there with her new boyfriend, along with Renee’s father, who is now her ex-husband. It sounded like a recipe for stress and potential disaster to me. (This story has a long history which really isn’t mine to tell.)
Oddly, the Italian couple belonged to a Presbyterian church, not the Catholic Church, so I felt right at home with the longish, scriptural message and the tear-jerking version of Sandi Patty’s “We Shall Behold Him.” We wrapped up with a congregational chorus of “How Great Thou Art,” and my spiritual experience was complete.
The sanctuary was packed, and the processional to the cemetery was the longest I’ve ever seen. I felt my heart move as we walked through the cemetery to the appointed family plot. The stones were full of Italian names – every single one ended in a vowel. In our transient world, where people rarely end life where they started, it was so refreshing to see generations of families laid to rest together in the hills of a small Pennsylvania town.
What a beautiful day to say good-bye.
Rest in peace, Uncle Nick.