I’m not sure there’s an easy way to blog about this. In fact, there’s a part of me that doesn’t think I want to blog about it. It’s more than a post about the untimely death of a friend’s family member. It’s more about friends and caring and effortlessly picking up where you left off.
So many, many years ago, my husband and I went on a Marriage Encounter weekend. We fared well and will soon celebrate 35 years of wedded bliss. While on that weekend, I was struck by a couple who shared freely and openly and beautifully. I didn’t know them at all but it turned out that they belonged to the parish where I worshipped and sang and played guitar on Sunday mornings. The Sunday after the ME weekend, I saw them and their five children in the front rows of the church pretty much in front of where we played.
Life, you know, is insane and as their children grew, they joined our little group of worshipping, singing, guitar-playing folks. In this group, there were nuns, lay people, high school students and maybe even 8th graders. Some of the folks in this group were family members. One of them joined after she sang at her brother’s wedding, um, her brother married my sister. One of the high school students had joined when she was in elementary school and when she grew older, worked with me.
We worshipped together for many years and friendship blossomed as the young ones grew older. I’m not sure how or why it worked, but it did – this disparate group of folks made some good music and some good liturgy. And we were together – even when one of the nuns (Betty Ann) got locked out of the convent and came to Mass to play her double bass in red sweats.
We played together for weddings and baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations, and yes, for funerals too. There was a young girl who had Hodgkin’s Disease. She sang with us for a few years. We led worship at her funeral. It didn’t seem right to be singing and playing at a funeral for a 19 year old girl. That, I think, is when I realized that the friendships we made in this group were going to be lifelong.
The nuns sort of scattered to other ministries all over the east coast. As members married and had children, they had less time to be involved. Some of the folks were able to weather the years. But we’re never more than a phone call away and it’s like we never skipped a beat! It’s really an amazing group of people.
I wrote a witness talk about those friendships… about how Pam lived in Syracuse and Liverpool NY and then ended up in Newport News, VA. When her mother died, we drove to Pittsburgh to play at the funeral. When my mom died, she drove from Newport News to play at MY mom’s funeral. When Betty Ann died, I was able to be a part of that funeral, and just like 25 years before, Pam was singing me songs over the phone saying, “You know this one, right?”
That family that sat in the front of church, the one whose oldest son became a part of the group and a dear friend. His siblings joined and it just made the bonds stronger. When their dad died, we were away on vacation and Shel and I were able to change our plans to come back a day earlier and be there to play at the funeral.
Oh it isn’t just about funerals, really. We played at weddings and as kids were born, at baptisms. There’s an amazing legacy of worshipping our Creator through music. I would get involved in some crazy church thing and call Cindi and Terri and Mike and off we would go to sing and play music together – I think they had fun. I know that I couldn’t have done it without them. I should add that as years progressed, I would call my siblings and Mike’s siblings and later, my nieces and nephews, to come and sing for a wedding or funeral or just for Mass on Saturday night.
And, now I know I’m rambling so bear with me, but the other day I got a call on my cell from Mike and he needed help planning funeral music – funeral music for his 43 year old brother-in-law. His wife’s sister’s husband had died suddenly – so suddenly – too suddenly. And as soon as I could get home, there we were, singing over the phone, “You know this one, right?” I really didn’t ask him, I just said, “It’s ok, I’ll be there. We’ll do it together.” Pretty presumptuous of me… but if the roles were reversed, I would want Mike there for me.
This afternoon, I called Cindi and asked her if maybe she could come tomorrow. She might not be able to, but it was clear she would have if she could. I’d like to call Terri and I know I could, I know I should, but she’s been so involved with her sister and sick nephew who has cancer, it might be hard for her to get off work.
Mike came over today and we rehearsed the songs and cried together. We talked about Pam and Betty Ann. We talked about other group members. We talked about our kids. I told him I might call Cindi. But even if it’s just the two of us, I think it will be fine tomorrow. The tears are flowing freely now as they did this afternoon and my heart is aching for them, for what that family has to deal with tonight and tomorrow – but more, for what that family has to deal with in the future.
It really does suck. Big time. It shouldn’t be this way but it is. We have laughed together. We have cried together. Maybe if we make it to heaven, we’ll laugh forever. I hope we’ll sing together forever. Barb and BettyAnn are waiting for us. Lee and Mom and Big Ernie are listening.