Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Melancholy Journey

My brother Patrick died a week ago, the growing tumor in his brain finally squeezing off the last of his life functions. His widow arranged for his remains to be cremated, and set up a funeral service to be held at the local Catholic church the following Monday.

After receiving the bad news, I made arrangements to fly to St. Louis on Saturday, then went home and took one of my suits out of the closet. Suspecting I had gained weight, I tried it on and discovered to my horror that I couldn’t even button the pants closed. None of them fit. I raced out and bought a suit, begging the tailor on staff to make the alterations the following day so that I could pick it up on Friday night.

I flew out on Saturday, my mind fighting depression by focusing on things I normally don’t notice. For example, I kept re-reading this message on the back of the seat in front of me:


What does this mean? There’s no other time I could fasten my seat belt. I can’t wear it while I’m standing up. Shouldn’t it just say, “Fasten Seat Belt?”

Usually I take an aisle seat, but on this trip, I was able to slide over to the window seat and marvel at the view that I normally ignore. Here we are crossing the mighty Mississippi, with huge rafts of barges waiting to be loaded or unloaded and moved along what was once North America’s greatest commercial highway:


I stayed with my sister Peggy and her husband Lee as members of the family assembled from other parts of the country. They have a sweet, friendly Golden Retriever named Phoebe who kept me amused, and reminded me that it’s important to be enthusiastic about visitors:


On Monday morning, we drove to the church for the funeral Mass. I saw family members and family friends I haven’t seen in 10 years or more (often with good reason). There are a lot of stories I could tell you about them, but I won’t. I was trying not to dwell on the family nonsense when the service started, and I realized I was in for a treat.

The priest must have been a frustrated thespian, unable to find his calling in the theater. So he drew upon what he believed to be his greatest strength and applied it to the Catholic Mass. When reciting the words of Jesus Christ, he lowered his voice a couple of octaves and spoke in a manner I can only describe as a poor imitation of William Shatner. When consecrating the wine, he bent over the altar and spoke directly into the chalice, as though talking to God via a cup-and-string mechanism. People’s heads were swiveling, stifling laughter, staring at one another in disbelief. As for me, I got my money’s worth.

After the service, people headed down to Patrick’s house for a reception. The house is located out in the woods in a secluded area, and you see sights like this along the way:

stlouis 046

Patrick’s widow described the reception as an “Irish Wake,” which suited Patrick’s friends perfectly. Patrick liked social events that involved alcohol consumption, and he would have been right at home at this one.

After we left, I drove back to Peggy’s house and passed this ostentatious marble mausoleum, which I thought looked like the headquarters of some comic book superhero:

stlouis 047

1 comment:

bruce said...

Hey Tim,

Sorry to hear about your brother.