I rode down from Albany to Pennsylvania Friday afternoon with my kids. It was really nice to have them all to myself for four hours; usually when I go back to Albany there are a lot of people around and I don't get to connect with them much. If you’re new to my blog, both of my kids are singer-songwriters. Christopher is a sweet and gentle soul. Courtney is also a sweet and gentle soul, but she’s also a trip and a half.
Court’s an excellent driver, so we took her little Subaru. As we got off the NYS Thruway, I read the directions my sister Lori had written up for us.
Me: “Look for 84 west. We want 84 west.”Courtney skillfully makes a U-turn.
Me: “Oops, I think we missed it. That was the entrance ramp.”
Courtney: “No problem, I’ll just pull a huey.”
Courtney: “Okay, so now we want 84 east, right?”Isn’t she precious?
The wake, held at the church where Beautiful Aunt Joyce was a pastor, was tough. It was a closed casket, and I swear I could have hurled myself over that thing like a wailing Italian widow. Very sad. We did, however, get a kick out of sentiment on the floral arrangement from her congregation.
Beloved Paster--too funny. I knew BAJ was into scrapbooking, but I had no idea her pasting skills could mean so much.
After the wake we went back to our hotel suite in the nearby town of Lehighton and had the traditional family beer party. I took this picture of Chris and Courtney in the parking lot. I don’t care that they're 30 and 31—they’re still adorable to me.
Saturday morning we went back to the church for the service and of course, it was very emotional. Joyce was only 12 years older than I am—way too young to die. I kept thinking what if I only had 12 years left? You never know. Scary.
Because Joyce was a pastor, the service was very religious (duh). Church never clicked with me—even when I was a little kid—and whenever I go to funerals, I realize that when they’re talking about the deceased person, I’m sobbing away, but as soon as they start talking about Jesus, I kind of space out and I stop crying. So in a way, I really am comforted by all the religious stuff. Ironic, huh?
I have to tell you this. Joyce was a bit of a kook, and when she was sick she used to make videos of herself doing a take-off on the old Senor Wences character from the Ed Sullivan show. Her character was called Senor Fuentes and he had little costumes and everything. Here she is hamming it up last Christmas.
So check this out. In the middle of the funeral service, the minister said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this, and I would only do it for Joyce…” and then he put up his hand, which had a face painted on it.
His little painted hand person told everyone that Joyce would want us to go on with our lives and live with laughter. It was the biggest “laughter through tears” scene you could imagine.
At the end, BAJ was taken to a special plot in the little cemetery outside the church. It’s a beautiful spot, but what's up with that sign?
Lori was a pallbearer, and I was so happy that our uncle John selected her for that honor. The loss of BAJ is especially hard for her. Lori was a handful in her day—to give you an idea, she’s now an administrator at the juvenile home where she lived as a teenager. Lori’s both my sister and my best friend, and I can tell you she has one of those strong personalities that some people find intimidating. Not everyone gets her, and not everyone appreciates her. BAJ was one of the people who truly loved Lori unconditionally from Day One. It's a big loss.
In the last few weeks, Lori made several trips from Albany to PA. Most of the time she’d dirty up every pot and pan in Joyce and John’s house, making and freezing meals so they would always have something handy to eat. Shortly before Joyce died, Lori spent a sleepless night holding her hand in the hospice. Every few minutes Joyce would weakly call out to her, “Lor?”
“I’m right here,” she’d reply.
The night after Joyce passed away, Lori was sleeping in her bed at home and she swears she heard Joyce’s voice call her again.
“Lor?” she said. Only this time her voice was strong, like it was before she got so sick. We think it was Joyce’s way of telling her she’s okay.
How about you? Do you think that could be possible?