This past week Mary Jennie, who I sang in the Petersburg Festival Chorus with, passed away after a long battle with Cancer.  RIP, Mary Jennie!  It made me stop and reflect on how to mark the passing of the people in our lives and how differently my family will mark that event.

My family, when someone passes, has a wake.  A wake involves food and drink.  Lots of food and LOTS of drink.  The length of a person’s life dictates the length of the wake.  So some people have a very long send off.

My family has had some infamous wakes.  When my Grandmother passed away I was only about 8 or 9.  My Grandma lived next to a bar, Big Paul’s.  Several times the neighbors were angry with the owner, but Grandma always went to bat for him with the neighbors.  To honor her Paul closed his bar and opened it to my family for her wake.

I recall my Dad and my Uncle, Bob, getting quite toasted.  At one point they felt that the grandchildren should have a drink in her honor.  Big Paul had to put up quite a fight to get my Dad and Uncle to back off.  In the end reason won out.  Then again when you fight with drunks it is never a fair fight!

The day my dad passed away the family gathered and had a cookout with lots of stories and beer.  It was just as Dad would have liked it.  Laughter, liquor and burgers.  The only thing missing was a sporting event playing in the background. 

We shared stories of his life, our upbringing and the moments that shaped our lives.   All of this was met with laughter, with a few happy tears and a bit of sadness, too.

I love the way we mark the passing of a life.  It is always good to remember, to reflect, to laugh and to give them a rousing send off to the hereafter.  It is the measure of a life well lived.  But, it may be wrong to have a hangover the next day.  Then again, that is how we know that we sent them off well.

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