Aunt Jane died. She was 95. Aunt Jane was the lady who taught me how to play jacks and cats’ cradle in 1969 when I was six-years-old. She fed me salmon patties, which I grew to like. She took me on daily walks by the duck pond.
When we all got older, it was my brothers and I who entertained Aunt Jane. We took her to lunch at the steak house or stopped at a burger joint and picked up food and took it to her apartment, where we laughed and joked and marveled at our aunt, born in 1921. Jane still called the refrigerator the “ice box.”
I was particularly close to Jane because she was so kind to my autistic son. She proudly displayed his school pictures and told everyone nice things about him such as how he could imitate anyone–from Donald Trump to Donald Duck.
I loved Aunt Jane. We all loved Aunt Jane.
Aunt Jane liked to drink beer. Blatz. And she liked to smoke cigarettes. She didn’t shy away from a blue joke. She was fun.
Her death did not come as a shock to as because she’d been very sick for months. Sepsis. On April 2, 2017, my mother called me and said two words, “Renee called.” Renee was Jane’s daughter. I knew instantly why Renee had called. Jane was dead.
But what was surprising was that Jane to informed Renee that she did not want there to be any funeral, wake, party, anything in her honor. It was Jane’s wish to pass quietly from one world to the next.
“Aunt Jane didn’t want any fuss made about her death,” my mother said.
“What?” I said. “Aunt Jane loved a good party.”
“I don’t understand it either.”
“Was she upset because people didn’t visit her as much as they used to. Was she mad at us?”
“I’m not sure, but we can have our own private ceremony at her graveside after the whole thing is over.”
“You mean we’ll get a minister and invite people?”
“No, we’ll just go there and says some prayers. Our immediate family.”
When my husband got home, I told him. The first thing he asked was, “When’s the funeral?”
“There is no funeral, “I said. “No wake or party either.”
That night my husband said, “Why don’t we all go to dinner at the Amish restaurant. Jane loved the Amish restaurant.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said.
I got on the phone, called my brothers and mom and set the whole thing up for Saturday at 3:00.
We were going against Aunt Jane’s wishes, but she was gone, and we were left trying to understand her passing. We were looking for closure. And she deserved a send out. Maybe she was too sick to think straight about how the family should respond to her death.
Grieving and celebrating the deceased is necessary and good. It’s important to remember the person as she was at her best. Quite frankly, I never heard a mean word out of Aunt Jane’s mouth. I wanted to revel in her kindness, to toast to her longevity. She must have been doing something right.
As difficult as funerals and wakes can be, they are vitally necessary. Take the time and the interest in remembering your loved one’s passing, even if it’s just getting together over a meal and sharing stories about your loved one’s glorious life.
It’s the thing to do.