Wednesday, October 6, 2010

funeral Mass

My fellow teacher Glady's sister died early Monday morning of leukemia. There had been a couple other school-related funerals, and it had seemed strange several months ago for so many of the teachers to go to Pepe's mother's funeral--surely they hadn't known her? This time it finally dawned on me that it's the custom here for survivors' friends and colleagues to come to the funeral, and even to the cemetery, so I went. I guess that's what wakes are for in the States, though I've never been to one--there haven't been a lot of deaths in my life, and whenever friends' family members do die, the deceased always lived wherever my friend was from, not in the Bay Area.

It was pretty interesting. The cathedral was echo-y, but having grown up Episcopalian--"almost as good" as being Catholic, according to a Wisconsin priest I met on the Pyramid of the Sun--I had enough context for my Spanish to fill in the blanks and follow the service. The casket was open and laid along the axis of the nave, with a sign made of carnations (I think) saying in Spanish, "Goodbye, Friend." Apparently another custom is to bring a special kind of flower arrangement and lay them all in a line down the center aisle from the casket, which is pretty striking when you walk in. (I really wanted a picture, but my mother raised me right, so, no.) After the service, the mountains of flowers go to the cemetery to be put on the grave.

Another thing I noticed is how fast the funeral happened: Gladys's sister died around dawn on Monday morning, and the funeral was at 1pm Tuesday. In the States it takes 3 days just to tell everyone, and whatever other complications with undertakers and churches and cemeteries. (Luckily I haven't had to deal with it yet, but I understand it's a royal pain.) My grandmother's funeral was a week or so after she died, I assume to give everyone a chance to get to Long Island from our various far-away homes. Here, families tend to stay close geographically as well as emotionally, so I suppose it's easier to get everyone together quickly.

It seemed to mean a lot that I went, so I'm glad I did.

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