My parents lived nearly all their lives in New York and Massachusetts until my father retired, at which point they headed south, after which my mother traveled north again only infrequently, and reluctantly, and not at all during about the last ten years. She was glad to be away from the cold and the snow of upstate New York winters. So it was one of those ironies that her last trip, from Houston to her burial place in Nassau, NY, took place during the winter months. True, it has not been much of a winter. At last report Albany was about 25 inches behind its average snowfall for the season through this time of year. I doubt if that would have impressed Mom much, though, especially since she arrived on Thursday, the same day as five of the inches Albany has gotten.
Nassau is a small village in Rensselaer County, southeast of Albany. There’s not much there. But Mom was born nearby, in Chatham, and after living in several places during her childhood her family settled in Nassau. So did my dad’s family, a couple years after he was born in nearby Schodack Center; they were schoolmates and, in 1940, they got married. When Dad died in 1988, Mom chose to have him buried in Nassau-Schodack Cemetery, and she joined him there on Saturday.
I drove to Nassau on Friday, stopping first in East Greenbush to meet with Pastor Bob Lowenthal of the Methodist church there. I’d asked him to officiate at Mom’s funeral. Mom had been a Methodist, and it turned out my friends Fred and Kate, who just recently moved to East Greenbush, had started going to that church. So Bob was a natural choice. Then on to Nassau to talk with Terry Mooney of Mooney’s Funeral Home on Elm Street. Just a little way further down on Elm Street are five houses, three on one side of the street and two of the three across from them, which as near as I can figure had been the homes of relatives of mine at one time or another. Then again, there’s not a lot to Nassau that isn’t Elm Street. From there I went to the cemetery, finding the grave open and ready.
The rest of the family that was able to attend arrived that evening: My sister Pat and her husband Tom, my other sister Janet and one of her daughters Julie, Janet’s old friend Ruth, our cousin Barb, and Heather and Kenny. We went to dinner at Chez Mike in East Greenbush; I had the lamb stew, and it’s early yet in 2012 but this is a strong favorite for best restaurant meal of the year.
The service was at the funeral home the next morning. Mom was surrounded by flowers, many of them arranged for by Heather, and her casket was draped with a flag, honoring her World War II service in the Coast Guard. Her favorite composer, Beethoven, was present in the form of the slow movements from the 7th and 9th symphonies before and after the service, and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” was played during the funeral. (Coast Guard again.) Tom offered a beautiful remembrance of Mom. Then he and I helped put the casket into the hearse and we went on to the cemetery. A brief service there and it was over. I took Kenny to see the gravestones of some of his other relatives.
Then we went to lunch at the East Greenbush Diner. I think it was the first time any of us had been there since about ten years ago, when a very similar group of us — adding in Mom and my late Aunt Mary, with a brief visit by Mom’s brother Leslie — sat in the same corner and, Jan thinks, were served by the same waitress. (“It seems strange to be here without a grownup” Pat and Jan agreed — both of whom qualify for the senior menu.) From there we went to see Uncle Leslie, who has recently moved into a nursing home and could not be at the funeral.
Then nearly everyone headed for home, but I chose to stay over Saturday night. Before that I went for a good visit at Fred and Kate’s. Then back to the hotel to get well rested before driving home on Sunday.