Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sadness and Joy Intermingle

Maybe not to the same extent as adults but us kids were truly saddened by the death of someone close, including friends as well as relatives. The sadness, however, was tempered with a sense of joy for it was at funerals that we were reunited with long lost relatives and friends.

I don't know if it was strictly a Portuguese custom or a trend of that era, but wakes were held at home and not at the mortuary as it is today. Let me be more specific by describing my Uncle Johnny's wake.

My father removed my grandmother's front door and placed it on two wooden horses in the middle of the parlor. A white sheet was draped over the door and the open casket was placed on top of it. Additional parlor chairs were borrowed from the neighbors.

After viewing the deceased and offering their condolences to the immediate family the women joined the rest in the parlor and crocheted as they gossiped about the living as well as the deceased.

The men went to either the front or back porch and renewed acquaintances as they shared a bottle of wine. As for us kids, we gathered in the yard where we could play to our hearts content.

It seems that every woman who arrived brought something to eat and we could pick whatever food we wanted whenever we wanted. For many of us it was an all night banquet.

Since the wake lasted all night and many families did not leave until the wee hours we had lots of time to visit and share experiences with long lost relatives and friends living in other communities.

It does not seem believable but death brought both sadness and joy to us.


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