The viewing was from 6-9pm, and we arrived about 6:15. There was already a line to view the body (which is always creepy in my opinion) and greet Aunt Antoinette and Uncle Domenic's 2 sons, Anthony and Fiorenzo. Spouse & I were happy that so many of his cousins came from both near and far. Several of us visited in the anteroom while those in line paid their respects. There were several photo collages assembled to showcase Uncle Domenic and those he loved. A TV in the anteroom ran a slide show of even more photos.
We were impressed with the number of people who came, but I guess we shouldn't have been surprised since Uncle Domenic & Aunt Antoinette went to the same church for many years, had the same neighbors for many years, belonged to the same social groups (including the Sons of Italy) for many years, and were active in their community. Spouse whispered that some of those who came to the viewing looked as if they could be extras from "The Sopranos". I whispered back that we were on the set of "My Big Fat Catholic Italian Funeral". When the line finally subsided at nearly 8:30, we paid our respects and and offered kind words to Aunt Antoinette, Anthony, and Fiory.
Since none of us had eaten dinner, Spouse's mom, sister, and 2 brothers went with us to a Mexican restaurant near our hotel.
The next morning we arrived at the church at 9:45 for the funeral which was supposed to start at 10am. Spouse's sister sat with us in the back rather than in the front pews reserved for family because Spouse did not want to be 'obvious' about not going up to partake in communion. We whispered to each other as we saw cousins and their spouses and children arrive, but there was no sign of Aunt Antoinette or Uncle Domenic's coffin. Spouse asked "What time is it?" I looked at my silenced phone and responded "10:04." Without missing a beat Spouse said "Uncle Domenic is going to be late for his own funeral."
This struck me as absolutely hilariously funny and I struggled like Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown's funeral to restrain my laughter.
I usually don't have much in common with Catholic theology but I must say that the Priest's funeral sermon was probably one of the most practical, uplifting, yet sensitive I've ever heard. He spoke of having talked with Domenic days prior to his death and shared that Domenic was not sad or scared of his imminent death. According to the Priest Domenic said he'd lived a long and good life, had a wonderful family, and knew that what was waiting for him on the other side was even better. He was ready to go. I thought this was likely comforting to those who share his belief in Heaven, and was certainly more personal than just reading archaic Bible verses. There were likely 150 people there.
After the funeral mass the family and some others went to the cemetery (next to a freeway) for a short reading. Everyone was handed flowers to place on the coffin. Fortunately they did not lower the coffin into the grave until everyone had left. (I remember that horrible detail when my grandmother died many years ago, which I find to be unnecessarily brutal.) Then we all went to a local restaurant for a luncheon.
A woman named Nancy and her husband were seated at the table with Spouse's mom, sister, cousin, brother, and the 2 of us. Nancy had met Spouse's mom before, but asked how each of us was related to her. When it came to me, I said I was her son-in-law. However, later in the conversation Spouse's sister mentioned that her husband was not here. Nancy looked back at me and asked "How are you related again?" My blue eyes and pale complexion made it obvious that I wasn't a blood relative. I repeated "I'm Evelyn's son-in-law." Nancy said pointing at Spouse's sister "But her husband isn't here and she's the only daughter, right?" There was a brief pause and then I said calmly "That's right. I'm married to him" and pointed to Spouse. Nancy looked confused. "You're married?" she asked, to which I responded "Yes..." and smiled. "Where did you get married?" she asked. "In our living room" I answered. "Did you have a Justice of the Peace?" she inquired. "No, our very good friend was a pastor so he married us." I answered. Additional questions followed and I began to wonder if the others at the table were getting uncomfortable with this extended inquisition, but I decided to capitalize on the opportunity to share with this 70-something year old Catholic woman how 2 gay men live, love, and marry.
While I'd prefer to never attend another funeral, I can see why many cultures still perpetuate the practice. To some it provides closure. It offers family, friends, and neighbors an opportunity to provide comfort. In our case, it created a non-negotiable date for far-flung family member to return home and share remembrances, commune, laugh, cry. As I age, I suppose I will have to attend funerals with greater frequency than I have in the past. Hopefully I'll be seated with more Nancys.