When your phone rings at 10pm on a Sunday night, and it’s your mom, you know it’s usually not good news. That was the case last Sunday, a week ago today. My phone rang at 9:59pm, and I knew before I even answered that it wasn’t good news.
Mom told me that my grandmother, who we affectionately referred to as Weezie, had passed. She’d been sick for about a year and a half, but even so, you never expect it.
Through tears, Mom told me that she’d passed earlier that evening. And while initially sad, I was also relieved. Everyone always tries to console you when you lose someone who was ill by saying “at least she’s not in pain anymore”, and it’s usually bullshit. But in this case, it was actually true. Once the initial shock wore off, I knew that she really had moved on to a better place, and she wasn’t hurting anymore.
Due to some schedule issues with the extended family, we had to push the wake out until Friday. I got there half an hour before it was supposed to start and met with my aunts and uncles and their respective other halves, my Mom and her husband Walter. The Priest was there and gave the initial blessing, as we all stood around soggy-eyed. It was tough to be there, but it was good in a way. Not so much because it felt like we got closure or got to say goodbye, but because we got to see how many people really loved her.
Weezie had turned 86 on May 3rd, two days before she passed, and I found out at the funeral yesterday that she’d lived in Arlington for her entire life. You can imagine that over 86 years and living in one place, you tend to meet a lot of people. And they all came out to say goodbye.
The photos from the 40s and 50s of her were amazing. She looked so beautiful on her wedding day, which I forgot to ask someone when that was, with her father who I never met (he passed before I was born.) Photos spanning her entire life were spread across the funeral home, illustrating not just what an amazing woman she was, but how many people loved her, and how many lives she touched.
At first I found it odd that there were no pictures from when she was a baby. But I realized that it’s likely due to the fact that cameras were expensive in the 20s, and I doubt my great-grandparents had the money to have one. The first pictures of her were from her teenage years.
Seeing my grandfather (who arguably wasn’t the greatest guy to my grandmother or any of my aunts and uncles) in the wedding photos was a trip. He’s been gone for nearly 16 years now, and seeing him in his prime made me flash back to Good Fellas.
Saturday morning meant the funeral, which was admittedly tougher than the wake. When I arrived at the funeral home at 8:30 (half an hour before it was slated to start), I was the only one there. I had the opportunity to sit down and say my farewell to Weezie, just the two of us. I thanked her for doing such a great job raising my mom and her brothers and sisters, virtually on her own. I thanked her for making delicious Italian food every Sunday when we’d come visit throughout my childhood. I thanked her for letting me stay at her house on January 21st, 1990 so I could watch the Royal Rumble. Thanks to Uncle Franky’s magic “black box”, I watched the Royal Rumble that year for free at Weezie’s. I thanked her for always being positive, no matter how many crappy things happened in her life. She truly was an amazing and inspirational woman, and was without a doubt my favorite grandparent.
While still sad that she’s gone, I’m relieved and happy. Happy to know that my favorite grandparent got to live the longest, and got to be the biggest part of my life. She watched most of her grandchildren get married. She watched some of them have their own children. And now she rests in the back corner of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, just a few hundred yards from where she lived for the last few decades. Quietly in the back corner, under a row of trees, a beautiful plot.
We all bid farewell in our own ways. Some people tossed flowers on the casket, some people knelt and prayed, some people kissed the casket. I stood by the head of the casket after the service was over, and watched people say their goodbyes.
Flowers were tossed on top. My uncles touched the casket, and choked back tears. My mom and her sisters took flowers from around the casket, to keep and dry out. Before I left, I solidly placed my hand on her casket, and said goodbye, whispering that I loved her and thanked her for a great life. I took one red rose from the bunch by my left foot. Rather than placing the the rose on top, where it’d surely be swept off as they lowered the casket into its final resting place, I snuck it in underneath. There was a slight gap between the casket and the device that lowers it into the ground. I slid the rose into the gap and watched as it fell into the hole, where it’d find a home under where her casket would lay for all eternity. The expression “six feet under” never rang so true — it seemed to take minutes for the rose to hit the bottom.
It’s been a long and emotional week and one that I’m glad is over. I’ll miss Weezie for many years to come, and hope that wherever she is, wherever she ends up, she’s peaceful.