Four days ago, I got word from one of my four first cousins that my father’s brother had been taken to the emergency room. My Zio (the word for uncle in Italian) Luigi had gone to sleep the evening before and could not be woken from his slumber. Later that day, I heard that he’d been moved into hospice and that he wasn’t expected to live longer than one day.
My husband, mother, and I drove to the hospice to say our good-byes. My aunt, Zio’s sons, their wives, and his grandchildren were there. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew joined us to say our respects. My Zio’s breathing was labored, and he was using an oxygen mask. The similarity in his looks to my father during his last days was striking and unnerving. Around 8:45pm, seven months to the day that my dad passed away, my uncle stopped breathing, surrounded by his family.
We attended both sittings of the wake yesterday. Near the end of the second sitting, each of my cousins stood up and spoke about my uncle’s legacy as a husband, father, and grandfather. Their stories told of a man who worked hard and was hard, but also of a man who loved and supported his family financially and emotionally. One cousin invited his 10 year old son up to say something about his Nonno (grandfather, Italian).
I’d watched my little cousin during the second wake. He went up to my uncle’s casket several times on his own. My husband overhead him ask another cousin’s wife questions about the state of his Nonno and other questions about death and dying. He got up to the front and said, “I love my Nonno, and I’m gonna miss him.” He stood there briefly with a frown on his face, burst into tears, and ran to his father.
My mother and I, along with others, burst into tears. It’s one thing to be sad. It’s quite another to watch a beloved grandchild lose it, his heart pouring out for everyone to see, and to keep a straight face. I can never do that. And I’m glad that I can’t. If I could, I would not have gotten the chance to see my cousin’s children interact and play and grieve openly. They reminded me both of the joy and of the loss that I was feeling.
This morning, we attended mass. We drove out to the cemetery in the funeral procession. It amazes me that people do not know the rules about funeral processions and the prohibitions against breaking them up. I really think New York State needs to put out PSA’s that alert people to the rules. It’s really frustrating. That and hearses that speed to the cemetery. Keep in check! People are following!
A priest said a brief mass, invited attendees to sprinkle holy water on the casket, and then my uncle’s casket into his mausoleum. We drove back home and had lunch at a local restaurant with the rest of my family.
The amount of social interaction required for paying last respects, wakes, mourning, funerals, and family luncheons overwhelms me. Afterwards, I need to hibernate, so I buried myself with reading manga on the couch for 3 hours. I have only gotten up to go for a walk with my husband, and write my blog.
Zio, I hope you’re feeling better than the you have during the last three difficult months that you experienced. I’m glad I got to see you in rehab a couple of weeks ago, but it would have been nice to speak with you one last time. Good-nite, Zio.