Harold “Harry” Pillon lived a long, good life. When they laid him to rest, the church filled with well wishers and mourners wanting to ensure his safe passage to the other side. The priest looked out upon the congregation and made the usual murmurings about the passage of life, dust to dust and acknowledged the grief prevalent when a good person passes on.
Sarah Tuskow, Harry’s youngest daughter (and many said, his favorite), had come with her three children and husband. They sat in the second row, behind her other siblings and Harry’s one living brother. Behind them sat a bevy of cousins and nieces and nephews. And crazy Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally wasn’t really Sarah’s Aunt, but everyone called her that. She had married Harry’s brother right before he left for Vietnam in the 1960’s. He never returned. The family took her in as one of their own, but even back then everyone knew that “Auntie Sally” was a bit left of center.
Today Aunt Sally had really outdone herself. She was dressed from head to toe in black, except for the fake fruit attached in a massive pile on top her huge black hat, and inappropriate décolletage. Sarah could her Aunt Sally clucking and making noises behind her. She was tempted to turn around and shush her, because she never let her own kids get away with that behavior in church, but refrained out of respect for the funeral mass.
The Eulogy was progressing and the focus was on Harry, the deceased. Behind her, Aunt Sally began grunting and making noises of disgust louder and louder. People were beginning to turn their heads and the priest even stopped once to look out into the congregants before he continued. Usually that was enough of an admonishment for anyone, but this was Aunt Sally.
The priest asked if anyone would like to come up and say a few words. Sarah’s sister read a poem. Her brother told a funny story about the time that his father had caught him pilfering quarters from the family change jar and made him give his allowance for two months to the church. Sarah herself declined to say anything, so moved as she was by the others' memorable tributes. A colleague walked slowly up to the podium and sang a beautiful song. The priest bowed his head and asked for a moment of silence.
SHRIEEEEKKK! “Eeeeeeyaaaaa!” The unmistakable screech of Aunt Sally pierced the silence in the still air. She stood, and the entire church careened to get a better view. She crawled across the people sitting between her and the middle walkway stood defiantly in the aisle.
The priest’s jaw was hanging open, and the tittering from the children began to wash through the gathering. She whirled around, looking for the offenders, with a finger pointing at everyone.
“You! And You and You and You,” she hissed. People gaped. She walked slowly, her old back now hunched over, towards the altar. The priest looked confused, unsure what to do. He began walking from around the altar and down the steps towards her. Just before he reached the last stair, Aunt Sally threw herself down on the floor and began pounding it with her feet and fists. She was throwing a temper tantrum! Aunt Sally began screaming but the words were incoherent.
“The entire family, friends and those who had gathered to pay their last respects were stunned. Invariably eyes turned towards the closed coffin as if willing Harry to get up and beat back the accusations.”
Speaking in tongues, she shrieked like a banshee. The priest had stopped again, still unsure what to do next. She slowly rose, and began ranting in a low, almost melodic voice. People leaned forward, straining to hear and understand. Once they began to actually understand what she was saying, they leaned back in horror, visibly shocked.
Crazy Aunt Sally was seething about no one listening to her, no one asking her about HER feelings. She was accusing Harry of an affair etc., and from what people could piece together, it was after her young husband had been killed in the war (but before Harry himself had married). She went on about how much she loved him, and he had betrayed him to marry another woman (Harry’s beloved wife who had died years earlier).
The entire family, friends and those who had gathered to pay their last respects were stunned. Invariably eyes turned towards the closed coffin as if willing Harry to get up and beat back the accusations.
The priest hurried down the rest of the way and gently led Aunt Sally, who had by now begun wailing and tearing at her hair, flinging the pieces of fake fruit to the ground, towards the side of the church where they disappeared into a small doorway. A few moments later he returned, alone, and finished the ceremony. Everyone got in their cars as the caravan accompanied the casket to the cemetery. Aunt Sally was nowhere to be seen, but everyone was dutifully shocked, again, because when they got to the cemetery where Harry was to be laid to rest, they found that his headstone lay equal distance between two other headstones.
He had purchased the burial plots next to his. On one side was his wife, and on the other side was a marker with Sally’s name and her date of birth. Harry was to lie in eternity between his wife, and Aunt Sally! The final chapter of Harry's life story raised more questions than provided answers.
Sarah and her Aunt Sally in better days
Thank you Sarah, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Adara Bernstein and Story of My Life