I sat quietly watching them as they came out of the room one by one, each one wiping tears and holding back even more. Many of them were still in shock and were working very hard to see through the fog they found themselves living in for the moment, a fog that will remain for a while.
As each sister stepped through the door in the funeral home, their faces all gave away the pain they felt. They all tried to be stoic as they left, for the last time, the presence of the one they loved. She lay in a casket, a nondescript unassuming casket, clutching her pearl Rosary beads and wearing the same little crooked smile she wore in life. She wasn’t supposed to be the first one to go. She had children who were grown and had children of their own. Seeing her grandchildren brought her such joy. She had friends with whom she loved to visit. And she had her sisters. 5 of them. There were 5 brothers too, which made for several sisters-in-law. And they all loved each others company. Now one of them is gone. Sickness took her away from them.
First was Ann, the youngest sister. She stepped into the corner of the large alternate room away from other family and friends so that she could wipe her tears in private. She was soon followed by Terry, the oldest sister, and then Peggy and Patty. Evelyn walked slowly with her husband to another part of the room where she worked away her tears by greeting family and friends. Each woman was accompanied by her respective family, and that was where they seemed to find the most peace. Their collective pain was probably more than any of them could handle, and so they avoided sharing their grief with each other, at least today. Maybe as the days go on they will be able to sit and share stories with each other and remember Joan as she was. Maybe they won’t. Some memories are meant to be held only by the ones who made them and never shared; they are sacred.
These sisters, who grew up in hard times helping each other, laughing with each other and crying with each other now find themselves missing one. The space she filled won’t easily close, even with the passage of time, but it will go on forever resonating with her memory. These women share more than a last name and a pair of parents. They share a lifetime of joy and loss, of marriages, births, and deaths. They shared a lifetime with each other, never more than a phone call away from each other. They were, and are, family.