CommunityPam's House Blend

A family's goodbye — and celebration of life

Kate and I were in Brooklyn the other weekend — the historic section of Bed-Stuy, to be exact — to celebrate the life of my Aunt Judi, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. She didn’t want a funeral, so the family prepared a simple lay service/memorial at St. Philips Episcopal Church, which is right next door to my uncle’s house.

Any undertaking like a death in the family (or a wedding) on my mom’s side of the family, is not a simple affair. My mom and Judi were just two of 14 siblings, and she was the “mama” even though she never had any of her own — she’s cared for, in one form or another, her 75 nieces and nephews — and most of them were there to share our memories.

This photo of my brother Tim and I was taken the night before the memorial. We don’t have all that many of us together, and this is a nice one by my cousin Jill. Kate, Tim and I (along with other cousins) were folding the memorial programs the night before.

There were a lot of tears during the memorial. I was one of those who shared rememberances, and it was hard to get through it. My cousin Julie and others wanted the theme to be about women’s heart health — after all it was heart disease that took Judi from us prematurely, and many of us wore red in honor of that, or had red dress or red ribbon pins. I had not planned to wear read (I didn’t know about it before packing).

Ironically, the day before, when Julie, Kate and I went over to Judi’s apartment to help clean up for family members who were coming into town to stay there, there was a small pile of unopened clothes on a hassock. Judi had ordered some clothes prior to going into the hospital and the package had arrived. Inside there were four shirts of the same style, with different striped patterns; below those was a single package with a red tunic in it. Kate and Julie asked me to try it on and it fit! They said that I should wear it to the ceremony because Judi would have wanted me to.

And so I did — and that’s the shirt I have on in the photo. Before going into my rememberances I told them about the shirt, the need for women in particular to be proactive in speaking to their doctors about their heart health.

Afterwards we all celebrated in the parish hall, holding the 70th birthday party that Judi, sadly, didn’t make it to. We all had a good time seeing one another. We’ve all be trading and viewing each others photos from that weekend, since for many of us it was the first time we’ve all been together in decades.

One of the pretty amusing videos I shot is below the fold — the merciless teasing my brother received about his Facebook habits.Judi’s Memorial/B’day gathering: Tim’s Facebook Allergy

Why my brother avoids Facebook (he’s on it and never answers anyone), and the grief he receives from his cousins.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding