As a young Catholic Chicana growing up in the 50s and 60s our family calendar was full; Saturday and Sundays were filled with Baptisms, First Communions, and Confirmations. Nowadays folks I know don’t seem to have as many kids, and they are as likely as not to get married. There goes about 3/4 of the reasons for get-togethers and parties. Instead we seem to see each other primarily at funerals. Better that than nothing, I guess.
Most funerals, like most weddings, follow a pretty predictable format. It’s the character of those being remembered and those doing the remembering who define the character of the gathering. I go for the expression of support the visit makes for those left behind. James and I know what it is like to have a loved one die, were comforted by seeing family and friends at the funeral or wake, and want to be there for others as they go through dealing with death and loss.
This last Thursday we went to a one-of-a-kind rosary. Due to some traffic challenges James and I arrived nearly an hour late to Mr. Vargas’ Rosary. Usually a Rosary will last about an hour. We thought we’d arrive just in time to slip into a back pew and then share our condolences with the family, before coming back home.
We arrived at the church that was filled and heard the priest share something like “We’ll start with…the youngest of the grandchildren”. And on went the expressions – grand children, children, and sibling – for the next hour or so. Each spoke of their relationship, of some moment when they felt particularly close to Mr. Vargas – personal moments that had filled their hearts. One son came to the casket, and silently shared his thoughts leaning over his father’s casket while the congregation quietly waited. The finality of the goodbye filled the church.
She shared that she would speak in Spanish and English. And then she shared that her husband wanted to have a dozen children instead of the eight she bore. ”Imagine if we had…we’d be here ’til the morning”. And a soft bit of laughter flowed through the church. The benefits of a bilingual service? She shared the thought again in Spanish and the laughter let us enjoy a smile in place of the tears.
Gracias Mrs. Vargas. Adiós Mr. Vargas.