I hate funerals. But here it was, an invitation. To view Mimi. And here I was, escorting my parents to a funeral. More accurately, a viewing; the of seeing the body and consoling the family of the deceased.
I barely knew Mimi. I saw her a few times on my now-annual, then-occasional 4th of July parade visits to my grandmother’s house. Mimi, a long-time friend of my grandmother, was in her 90s. She continued to come to the house even after my grandmother – Nana – passed away at 102. And now Mimi was gone.
To my relief Mimi had chosen to be cremated. At least I assume that was her choice. In any case, the viewing was of an urn surrounded by flowers. I paid my respects to her family, none of whom I knew, before retreating to the next room to commune with my own extended family I saw so infrequently.
This was the first viewing since my Aunt’s untimely demise over 26 years earlier. True, I had flown back from Brussels a few years before for Nana’s funeral, but I arrived too late for the viewing, in time for the service and burial. A good Catholic, the church was filled with what remained of her large family (Nana had already buried 5 of her 9 children). The crowd of small towns-people filled in any gaps. She was admired. But I was talking about my Aunt.
Aunt Bette had died in her 50s from complications of non-stop smoking. I was in New Hampshire enjoying a much needed respite in a log cabin on an island in Lake Winnipesaukee. My parents were there. The phone rang. My mother was called to the phone. Her sister had died. Which one? Bette. One of the younger ones.
The viewing was two days later. We were invited. Of course. Bette lived a mile’s walk from our house and my mother and her sister were the closest of friends. Her casket was open. Though I refused to go near it, Bette seemed to be propped up so I could see her body from afar. Even today I get nightmares of the vision. I wanted to remember her for all her life; instead I remember her staring lifelessly from a casket across the room.
Unlike Mimi, who I remember for the life she brought to the rare occasions I saw her.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book on Abraham Lincoln is due out in 2017.