Hump Day: Playing second banana to a three-year-old at the wake

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Friday, I attended the wake for Jimmy Melanson and saw one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

Jimmy was my late Aunt Barbara’s brother. Barbara was married to my late Uncle Romeo, Dad’s brother. Jimmy died on Jan. 9 after a lengthy illness. The last time I talked to him was in November at a mass of remembrance held at St. Bernard’s Church for the families and friends of loved ones who had passed away in the previous year. Jimmy’s brother Ronnie passed away in 2012, less than a month before my father. That’s why we were both there.

At the reception, he asked, “Do you remember me?” Well, of course I did. He and his brothers all look alike. It’s hard not to know to whom they’re related! And as for the sisters, I find they all bear a striking resemblance to my aunt Barbara.

Jimmy regaled me with stories of his latest medical tests, including a bit too much information about a few of them. I didn’t mind, of course. He wanted to talk and I was happy to give him an ear. The conversation turned quite medically graphic, though, and I’m sure it was the first time a few of the words we uttered were used in church. Ha!

Jimmy’s wife, Irma, also told me that he’d lost his wedding ring in church that night. He’d lost so much weight from being sick that it just fell off his finger. Luckily, the ring was found a few weeks later and returned to him. He was so happy to have it back. Irma told me at the wake that Jimmy was heartbroken to have lost it. After 60 years of marriage, I can certainly understand that!

I’ve been told by a few people that they feel they can tell me anything… and then proceed to do so. I guess I have one of those faces, eh? You either want to slap me or confess your every sin. I should probably drag around a tape recorder with me and start blackmailing people.

Don’t judge me! I have credit cards just like you! Someone has to pay — and it might as well be you! (If I ever ask you to talk loudly into my lapel, you’ll know you’re being recorded.)

Anyway, back to my story. Before the funeral home visitation, I called my Uncle Cammy and Aunt Marguerite to see if they wanted to go. They said, “Of course!” and we made arrangements to meet at 7 p.m. to catch the start of the evening visitation.

Well, the parking lot was already full by 7 p.m., and the lineup was out the door of the room where Jimmy was resting. The line was going slow as friends and family paid respects to Irma, their children, Jimmy’s surviving sisters and brother as well as the rest of the family. Afterwards, I learned that 650 people paid their respects at the funeral home during the afternoon and evening visitations! Jimmy’s obituary said he was survived by many extended family members and friends — and boy, they weren’t kidding.

As my uncle, aunt and I approached Jimmy’s open casket, I noticed some hand-drawn pictures that were made by young relatives. One of the pictures was drawn by his three-year-old great-granddaughter, Maëlle. The picture was bright yellow and was clearly a banana. I saw the picture before I saw what was written and wondered, “Why would she have drawn a banana?” Perhaps it was an inside family joke or something.

Well, next to the banana was written “In case you get hungry.” I thought that was so touching, sweet and sad at the same time. She was too young to fully understand the concept of death, but she knew he was going on a long journey. And that, he was!

After I got home, I debated about whether or not to post to Facebook about attending the wake but decided that I would. I post everything else. Why not that, too? If you have the misfortune of being a Facebook friend of mine, you’ve surely noticed I post quite often. So, I posted that I’d attended the wake and that there was a big crowd. In fact, by the time I made it through the receiving line, they were lined up out the door for at least a 15-20 minute wait to get in front of the casket.

Not thinking I’d get much feedback except from a few relatives who knew Jimmy, I was surprised to hear from many Facebook friends that they were either related to Jimmy somehow or were neighbours. These were people I had no clue even knew who he was. Goes to show how everyone is interconnected. It also was evidence that he knew a lot of people. Getting 650 people through the funeral home during visitation is pretty impressive, after all, and certainly evidence that his life impacted many others.

We’re all interconnected somehow. I met people at the funeral home who read this column. I also saw others I recognized from around town or with whom I’d attended school many moons ago. We all ended up there that night in the same room — somehow interconnected because of one person.

I remember when I was writing out my gift list for family members this past Christmas. I absent-mindedly wrote down Dad’s name first then had to cross it off after I remembered he was gone. I continued writing the list but then decided to start afresh on a new page with no crossed-out “Dad.” Too sad! I’m sure Jimmy’s family will experience similar things in the coming days and months. It will all get better as time goes by.

Godspeed, Jimmy. Say “Hi!” for me to that ever-growing gang on the other side.

Oh, and enjoy that banana, too!

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