It was the wake for a parent of a family friend... she was almost 90 and died in her sleep very peacefully and quietly. She lived a good, honorable life and though you will miss the person and feel badly for their family, it's just about the best way to go in my book.
So why was it awesome? Well, the deceased had a large family made up of one daughter and four sons and my mother became friends with the daughter (whose name is Patti) when they were in high school. They have been friends now for many, many decades and over the years we have gotten very close with their family. We have spent countless hours with them celebrating graduations, Father's Days, Christmas (we attended a "Kiddie Christmas Party" every first weekend in December for over 20 years) and other fun events. They are a great, old-time large family: loud, loving, affectionate (everybody, it seems, kisses on the mouth as a greeting- something that my WASP-y family never did), Italian, devoutly Catholic and in everyone else's business. For years when we would go to a party at Patti's I would be rendered practically mute because I was so overwhelmed by the yelling, the teasing, the kissing, the everything.
Well, over the last 10 years or so as my brother and I have grown up and started our own families and Patti's children have grown and moved away, the parties have died down and now we see Patti maybe once a year or so. Some of her siblings I have not seen in over 15 years.
My parents and I went to the wake and of course the whole family was there: Patti, her husband and children, her four brothers, and her nieces and nephews. And it was just incredible to see everyone together again. We circulated around, reacquainting and hugging and kissing (on the mouth, of course) with one brother and then another nephew and we were all trying to piece everybody together... who belonged with who, who lived nearby and who lived far, and how old must so-and-so be now?
And then we saw Jenny.
And then I started crying.
I'm not sure why I cried when I saw her and got to hug her. She is the ex-wife of one of the brothers and she disappeared many, many years ago. She was sweet and nice and somehow quieter and more familiar to me personally than the rest of the family. I really missed her when she and her husband divorced. She had stayed in touch with Patti and over the years we've heard little snippets about how she's doing. So I hugged her and looked at her- she looks exactly the same even after all these years- and blurted out something like, "I have two little girls now!" and she was appropriately happy and we just kept saying, "I love you! It's so good to see you!" over and over again.
I was just blown away by the whole night.
After I thought about for a while, I think it was so meaningful to me because I was really able to slip back into my childhood for that hour. I was still a little girl, standing with my parents, greeting all these people who don't know anything about me- they don't know my husband or children or where I went to school or what I do or where I live- and they just loved me up and hugged me and kissed me just the same. Just because I'm my mom's daughter and we all had history together. All that garbage of being an adult just washed away and it was 1982 again. And seeing Jenny pushed it all back even further, back before her little family kind of fell apart and back to when she was still coming to parties and was so sweet on me.
It was a luxury to be able to travel back through that window in time and be eight again.
What a gift.