Feb 20 2012
Last Monday my aunt Peg (from my father’s side) called to say that her younger sister, my aunt Frances, had been diagnosed with cancer and if I’d like to see her I should come now. This was a complete shock as Nathan and I had just seen her last January. Here she is with my uncle Frank (from my mother’s side):
Peg and Frances are my Dad’s last two sisters alive. Frances lives in Dublin, Ireland so I got a flight out of San Diego on Wednesday morning and landed on Thursday morning.
Frances’ lovely neighbor, Adrian, and Peg picked me up, we dropped my bags at the house, then he dropped us at the hospital. I won’t go into all of the details, but Frances knows I’m here and is receiving palliative care to keep her pain free. We are going day by day but Frances’ condition is terminal.
I’m grateful that I got to see her, that I can support my aunt Peg, that I’ve met so many of Frances’ friends, of Elaine, Nathan, and Erin constantly checking on me, and that work has been 100% supportive of my being gone.
I’m staying in my father’s childhood home, which has been in the family since the 1920s.
Frances is the last of her line left in Ireland (Peg lives in England), so the house will now go on the market. I’ve visited this house 4 times in my life but I was always comforted to know it, and my family was here. It is so strange to see things coming to an end.
This is all very sad. I haven’t tweeted out about it because it’s hard to get into 140 characters, and because I know I’ll get a torrent of kind words and then I’ll completely lose my shit. But as my aunt Peg says, “you wouldn’t have been born with tear ducts if you weren’t supposed to cry.” Crazy old woman.
Frances passed away peacefully at noon today, 2/21/12. We’re keeping busy with visitors and arrangements.
UPDATE 2 2/27/12
It’s been an active week. Peg and I did a lot of calls to let people know. We went to the church to set up the services (short service on Friday, long mass on Saturday, followed by the burial). We visited the funeral home to have the remains dealt with, and to take care of the obituary, which was online before we even got home. We set up a reception for after the Friday service. We dug through piles of paper and drawers and things that seem way too personal for us to be looking at. But that’s our job now. It’s surreal.
Tons of friends and the few family left in Ireland were stopping by the house to sit and talk – and drink tea. The Fleming family has amazing family friends from the the old and new neighbors and they all stopped in at some point to lend support.
On Friday, the remains arrived at the house for a viewing from 2p-5p, then the crowd walked behind the hearse up to St. Columbus church, where Frances had been a very active parishioner for her whole life. Peg and I were carried in a limo, so we picked up the little old ladies who couldn’t walk that well. There was a short service with over 100 people attending, then Peg invited people to a local hotel for soup and sandwiches. About 45 people came over to the hotel, which is good, because that’s how many we reserved
Frances was a founding member of the Glasnevin Musical Society and many of her great friends are also members. Frances left specific instructions for her mass, and one of the Society friends took over and organized the whole thing, including liaising with the church folks. She was awesome! They sang at the service on Saturday and they were beautiful! I captured some of the sound on my iphone. When I get home I’ll try to clean up the sound and see if it comes anywhere near the reality. The mass was followed by a drive to the Glasnevin cemetery for the burial. Take a look at that Wikipedia link. There are 1.5 million people buried in that cemetery, and the monuments are enormous! I’ve never seen anything like it. Then some us went to a local pub for lunch and to decompress.
I wanted Peg to get away from all of this on Sunday, so we asked a good friend from across the street, Adrian, to drive us to Powerscourt waterfall in beautiful County Wicklow, just south of County Dublin. We ended up overshooting and ended up about 40 km south, and never made it into Powerscourt, but we saw some beautiful country and mountains. Even in February, this is a gorgeous country.
Today, we visited the family solicitor to get all the legal stuff going. Neither Peg nor I live in Ireland, so there were a lot of questions, but we got it started. I head home on Wednesday, and Peg is hanging out in Dublin for a few more weeks to work through the issues. I hate leaving her alone, but I can’t wait to get home either. I’ve had assurances that the friends here will keep her company. I’m looking into coming back in the summer to help with closing up the house for sale.
So, that’s the facts, ma’am. I’m really looking forward to getting home to my family and looking back on all this. I’m even looking forward to going back to work! I could use some normality back in my day. Finally, I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym. EVERYTHING is fried here. And awesome.