Yesterday Uncle Slappy and I walked across the badly manicured grounds of a Jewish cemetery in New Jersey.
We had arrived early, a good 45 minutes before Aunt Louise was to be interred. We visited a gravesite or two and then we walked slowly amid the tombstones to the plot into which Aunt Louise was assigned.
We saw Greenbaums, and Cohens, and Genzers, and Taubs, and Steins, and Applebaums, and a thousand more names.
"It's like looking at your list of Facebook friends, eh boychick," he chided.
I admitted it was.
"It's hard walking through a cemetery," he said "when you're 86."
"It's hard when you're 56," I answered.
"Most of the people buried are younger than I."
"When Mozart was my age," I joked "he was dead for 20 years."
We had made it to Aunt Louise's gravesite before the rest of the family had arrived. There were two unionized gravediggers there setting up four folding chairs under a small canopy. Their arms were tattooed and they nonchalantly completed their ministrations, emphatically standing two shovels into the pile of dirt a backhoe had removed.
Aunt Louise's plain pine box was poised on a cheap super-structure ready to be lowered. We stood at the grave and waited for the others to arrive.
Finally they had. A couple of nieces, one sister and her slightly-retarded spouse, my wife and her brother, and an official from the graveyard.
Uncle Slappy began. He interspersed some traditional Hebrew prayers with some thoughts about Louise. He kept it short and he kept it sincere.
"We all made fun of Louise for the small colorful doilies she crocheted," he said. "We all have dozens of them around the house, in the back of closets and the bottom of sock drawers. She didn't have a lot. She left no money and just a bit of cheap jewelry. But for the rest of our lives, we'll stumble upon those doilies and we'll laugh.
"That's more than most people will leave."
With that the workmen cranked her down and we each shoveled a shovel-full of sandy dirt into the hole. The sound of dirt falling on hollow pine is one of the saddest there is.
We walked back to the car.
Goodbye Aunt Louise.