I thought long and hard about whether to turn around and go back to Panama City for Minga’s service and interment in the cemetery in Rio Hato. In the end I’ve decided to stay here.
Honoring the dead is an important part of grieving, but the rituals of death are onerous for me. The early, sudden deaths of my infant sister and father happened without much support from the adults around me, and lord knows there was nothing like grief counseling in the 1950’s, especially for young adolescents. Irish Catholic families grit their teeth and moved on. I remember both funerals as highly traumatic events.
I had much more support when Jerry died, and I was honored and touched by all the people who showed up. It was important for Matt and Sara to see that their father was loved and respected. But the wake and funeral were exhausting for my introverted soul.
In recent years I lost another longtime and dear friend from my college days, Sister Bernadette. I didn’t go to her wake and funeral, although I supported her right up to the point of her death. Our friendship wasn’t built around the rituals of the Catholic Church — entirely appropriate for her as a nun — and I didn’t want our last experience together to be a Catholic mass and burial.
I could manage Minga’s funeral, if I thought going was the right thing to do. And if you want me to come to your funeral because I’m your friend, let me know and I will. But in this moment, I want to savor Minga’s and my wonderful week together, and get ready for the family reunion in January at her home that I trust will still happen. It was her deepest wish, that her extended family still gather. I don’t need to see her dead, in her casket, to know that she is gone. I think my presence might be of some comfort to her adult offspring and her grandchildren, but perhaps more so in January, with a little distance from the rawness of grief.
So here I am. Still receiving lots of emails and texts and expressions of sorrow for the loss, and I’m deeply grateful for every one.