observations and opinion
The fourth funeral was yesterday. The church, a lean and dignified edifice on a busy circle in Montreal, offered little relief to the many who arrived in thick September heat. It was only later, when the sky cracked open and a thundering rain burst out onto the city, that a breeze crept in through the doors and windows of the place.
We’ve had about one funeral every three weeks this summer. You cannot say that these events have been, or have felt tragic: each of the departed enjoyed a long, rich and rewarding life. Their exits were swift and in some cases, much suffering was averted. It was time.
These people came to adulthood during or just after World War Two. They had friends and siblings who died in battle, or who went away to convents to have babies “out of wedlock.” They built marriages, families, careers and reputations in the middle part of the 20th Century. They drove their kids on long holiday trips to the woods or the shore, back when seatbelts were optional and cars had ashtrays. Large maps would be unfolded and marked with pencil or pen, plotting the route from home to away, and home again.
They enjoyed cocktail hour (more frequently and ardently than we do), attended church (more frequently and ardently than we do) and kept their secrets. Words like “racy” “shocking” and “girl” were thrown about far more often back then. It was almost never necessary to use the word “appropriate” because, basically, everyone knew what was appropriate. Or not. Their kitchens featured at least one thing that was Avocado Green. Their children grew up and out, weddings were paid for, European vacations were booked, then medical tests were booked. Retirement came and grandkids, friends died suddenly and spouses died slowly. They left behind houses, paintings, books, toolboxes, hatboxes, small but heavy tennis racquets and long heavy wooden skis. Their children and grandchildren knew them, revered them and now, have buried them.
At each event, their families have honoured the departed with words or song. Old friends have laughed in fond recollection of idiosyncrasies. Perhaps because of their generation and the peculiarity of their circumstances (each belonged to the same small , shrinking island of Anglophone Montrealers) they were significant and memorable in their communities. They were known. And they all loved dinner parties. Everyone talks about the dinner parties, with a chuckle. So many cocktails. So many stories to make you smile.
But there is also grief. There is a terrible moment of recognition, when you peer into a hole in the world, where mom or dad or grandma or grandpa used to be. They are gone. Yes, it was their time to go. It is not wrong that they have gone, not wrong that their suffering has ended. It is just lonelier without them. For those who grew up under the steady guidance and watchful eyes of these departed, there is no-one to turn to now for direction.
They have left the driving to us. Does anyone have a map?