Wednesday, April 30, 2014

And then there were none

Marilyn, 1958

Two weeks ago, today, I buried my Aunt Marilyn, my mother's baby sister.

And now they are all gone, that generation; down like dominoes within the span of a little over a year.

First my mother, last January.

Then my dear Uncle Walter, coming up on a year this May.

And now, finally, Marilyn, passed, Sunday, April, 13th, though how she managed to live that long is anybody's guess.

We thought we had lost her three and a half years ago. And then again last fall, while I was in Raleigh, speaking at the ARC of North Carolina annual conference, telling my stories from the intersection between Sandwich Generation and special needs issues.

Instead of having a fond farewell with the wonderful people who had organized the conference and generously invited me to come speak (and paid me!) I was sitting in my rental car in the hotel parking lot, sobbing while I fielded calls from the nursing home, the hospital, the funeral home and my cousins, trying to prepare for my Aunt's imminent demise.

And then she rallied once again.

But not two Sundays ago.

In spite of the burgeoning spring, her funeral day was bitter, biting cold.  Standing by my aunt's graveside for a brief ceremony, the wind from the nearby ocean snaked through the winter coats, hats and gloves that had been donned so surprisingly on a mid-April day. Marilyn had been a winter baby, I figured this was her doing.

There were such a paltry few of us present: my little family and my cousin Jessie's - minus Aaron, away at college; seven in all. Plus the guy from the funeral home, plus the rent-a-rabbi the funeral home sent -- who was truly much better than any of us had expected, setting just the right tone of simple sadness.

For her passing was sad, but hardly tragic, more a blessing; a relief from a life she had relinquished all but the most tenuous hold to, long ago.

I was so grateful to have my husband by my side, whose Hebrew is strong, a counter to the mostly mumbled Kaddish chanted along by the rest of us.

We all shoveled a spade or two of dirt upon a lovely coffin. My niece, Jessie's daughter Ilana had brought along some forsythia from her grandmother's yard, and that too went into her grave. Though Marilyn had brought her winter to us for the funeral, we sent some spring with her into eternity.

Some more forsythia went on top of Walter's grave, atop a small pile of stones. His simple marker weathered now, nearly a year. Jessie and I discussed the stone that had been ordered, soon to come, and what to do about my mother, still sitting in a box on top of a bookcase in my apartment. She wants to be someplace I can visit her, so she'll be joining her sister and brother, mother and father on this windswept speck of flat earth, Long Island's city of the dead.

Afterwards we drove along the south shore to Point Lookout, the beach community of our childhood. There was a clam shack Walter had loved in the tiny fishing village there that seems so much more New England than suburban New York. We ate and laughed and remembered their lives.

There was not a single car in the beach parking lot, not another soul present as we walked the wintery beach.

Never underestimate the healing power of the great ocean. Or watching your children gambol upon an empty beach.

Rest in peace, Aunt Marilyn. Finally, at peace.

1 comment:

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