I’ll probably end up telling you several stories about my
mother’s funeral, but the one that surprises me that it should be
a story is this one.
The previous funerals we’ve arranged in Fall River were for my
grandparents. They had lived elsewhere, so most of the poeple who
came were friends of my mother’s, and we just invited them all
over to the house.
We originally thought we’d do that for my mother, but the
kitchen sink was clogged, the vacuum cleaner had stopped short
never to go again when my mother died. My mother died in Fall
River, Massachusetts, where
she’d lived since 1959, and knew a lot of people so we weren’t
really sure that there mightn’t be more mourners than the house
could handle even on its good days.
She wanted a Roman Catholic funeral, and the church she had
attended after she could no longer drive across town to the Polish
church, and before she stopped being able to walk even a few
blocks comfortably was willing to put up with what we wanted to do
with her ashes.
Unfortunately, it was built to accommodate the post-war
building boom, and Catholic churches of that era didn’t think
they’d need any kind of gathering hall in the building, so we
couldn’t just get someone to bring sandwiches to the church.
I told this story to a friend who comes from England, and she
said, “We just did my mother’s post-funeral reception at the local
The dynamic young priest who founded the parish is popularly
believed to be why the whole parish is zoned so that there cannot
be a liquor license. So there is no local pub. Consequently,
there are of course a lot of stories of poeople getting killed in
drunk driving accidents.
When we were in the process of deciding that the vacuum cleaner
and the kitchen sink weren’t going to get fixed before the
funeral, my sister picked up the yellow pages and started looking
for function rooms. Of course, most of them are attached to
establishments that serve liquor, and therefore are nowhere near
the church which is centrally located in a large, sprawling
parish. (The funeral was a 9 in the morning, so we didn’t
actually want liquor, only some food and some space where people
could hang out and talk.)
But it turned out that my mother’s favorite bakery, about 5
blocks from the church and three blocks from my mother’s house,
was listed as having a function room. We called a friend and
asked him if he’d ever done a function there, and he said, yes,
he’d had a small party for the one-year anniversary of his
father’s death, and everybody just ordered what they wanted at the
counter and took it in the back room and he paid for it all and it
was really nice.
When we called the bakery, they were a little concerned that
there might be too many people for them to handle, but we promised
to call them with the number (this is one of the things funeral
directors do for you) and to send the overflow to our back yard.
There turned out to not only be the back room, but a very nice
garden with a few tables. Someone said that the Fall River Garden
Club gets the owner to come talk about succession plantings.
As it turned out, there were about 70 people at the funeral, of
whom about 25 came to the bakery, and about a dozen of those came
over to the back yard when the bakery started rearranging the
tables to accommodate the lunch crowd.