I left Northampton Thursday evening for Delaware and then New Jersey. You may ask what is so important about going on a late-August weekend trip?
First, my work on two college campuses make this a busy few weeks (Amherst students arrived Sunday and Smith students arrive today). Second, Maayan started school Monday morning at 8am (and we only arrived home at 1am). Third, my wife starts work this week and it is the last week before the children start school.
We had already planned on spending the weekend in the Yellow Spaces (of Monopoly) at our sister and brother's house in Margate and his synagogue in Ventnor. Aaron's sister Mimi was due to be married. In our family, life cycle events are often weekend affairs since many of us are Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant). What changed was the death of my Great-Aunt, Freda Evans.
After the death of her brother David in January, Aunt Freda was the last of my grandparents' generation to survive. While my wife still has one grandmother alive--Lilly Bromberg who is 101 should continue to have a long life--my last grandparent died a few years ago and now all of their siblings are dead as well. When my grandfather Max (my Pop-Pop) died soon after college, he was the last immigrant in my last family (all three of my other grandparents were born in this country--as was one of their parents). Still, my great-aunts and uncles were a link to my past--they were living embodiments of the myths that provide the back-stories to my family.
At the last minute, I was able to help perform the funeral service since the Cantor was new in the community. Since before my third birthday Aunt Freda was a widow. For as long as I can remember, my grandparents lived in her house with her (I think they moved in when I was five). She was a constant part of my life. One of the things that made me respect Aunt Freda the most was the way she survived the challenges of life. She outlived her son Bruce (who died of Lupus and after whom I am named). She outlived her husband Babe, who died at an early age of a heart attack. She outlived her son-in-law Ronnie, who died of cancer when I was in Junior High. Many people are brought down by such tragedy but Aunt Freda continued to love those around her and greeted life with a happy countenance. What I remember most about her is her laughter when I would visit her and my grandmother. We always sat in the kitchen because there was always something cooking (in case, as my cousin Michael said at the funeral, an army stopped by and needed a meal). They would tell the same jokes and laugh about life--two old yoles (as they often called themselves).
From a bittersweet funeral (after losing so many family members and outliving her siblings, it is hard to be sad when someone dies at 96), we drove to the Atlantic City area for a happier occasion. The wedding weekend also had heartache in the not-so-distant background since Aaron and Mimi's mother Faith died five weeks ago. Still, it is nice to celebrate a wedding of family members, to meet their friends and family, and to enjoy hopes for the future. My parents and brother Larry joined us as well, so we continued be with them (we only returned from our vacation in Nashville less than two weeks before).
It is hard not to think about the symbolism of moving from a funeral to a wedding. A funeral is a celebration of a person's past and a wedding is a celebration about the future. Sure, at a wedding you talk about their lives up to this point but the focus is on the better future that we they will have. In the Jewish wedding ceremony, Sheva Brachot/Seven Blessings, we move from Creation and the first Bride and Groom (Adam and Eve) to the future Redemption that could come from the bride and groom. We link the past to the future.
I wish that Aunt Freda (Fredyl bat Yosef v'Sarah) should be remembered for a blessing and that Mimi and Reuben Kantor have a life full of blessing.
PS--Welcome back to Smith and Amherst!