The pastor, Father Remi officiated. Remi is a short version of his name, and I think his parishioners call him that because they can't quite get their Vermont tongues round his full name - Remigius Bukuru Ntahondi. I suspect that for most of his 87 years Red never dreamed his funeral mass would be said by a priest from Tanzania. I also know that he really liked Father Remi, who visited him frequently. And based on his sermon it seemed pretty evident that Father Remi liked my father, as well. That alone says heaps about how much the world changed in my father's lifetime.
Funerals are sad affairs, of course, but I think having that much time between his passing and the service enabled most of us to be a lot less emotional than we would have been while we were still absorbing the loss. There were still plenty of tears, of course.
|Aunt Nelly and Dad two years ago|
But she's a Kennedy, and that means you couldn't keep her down for the whole day.
I delivered the eulogy, and in it I reminded everyone that one of my father's greatest loves was to make people laugh. I invited everyone to take a second to recall something he had said or done that made them chuckle, and I was not surprised to see so many smiles light up the faces of the people who had come to mourn my Dad.
It was at the reception that Aunt Nelly told me that when I said that, she had thought back to when Red was very young - probably third or fourth grade. As you would expect of a family of nine in Wallingford Vermont during the Great Depression, there was very little money to go around.
All of us kids were told in no uncertain terms, Aunt Nelly explained, that we would get one cap, one coat and one pair of mittens for the winter so we had better not lose them if we wanted to stay warm. But one day young Red came home, crying his eyes out.
"Mom," he sobbed, showing his bare hands, "I've lost my mittens - pockets and all!!!"
My grandmother looked at him and quickly figured out what he meant. "Red," she said, "you go back to school right now. You're wearing somebody else's coat!"
And with that story from 80 years ago, we all had one more laugh with my Dad.