This hot humid summer night was one of closeness, sorrowful obligation, family sharing and Earth’s Movements. The wake was not so sad. It was more of a time to bond and a time to become reacquainted with our past than to cry. The immediate family was allowed an open casket viewing in private. We knew him for what he had become in his short 51 years of life. We did not see the horror his body had become, ravaged by the “cure” for his cancer. We did not see the cartoon character, we saw the whole person he had evolved into. At some point he realized and accepted the certainty of his death. He seemed to gain the wisdom and insight that age and experience brings to the elderly. We could see that when we viewed him. Others, not as close to him, would have been shocked and horrified to see a skeletal cartoon character in my brother’s coffin. They couldn’t realize the transformation, the metamorphosis he had undergone since childhood. So, we had a closed coffin viewing for all who knew him as an adult.
Two days before his passing we went with my father to visit him. My father hugged him gently and kissed both cheeks tenderly. We had not dared to hug or kiss him since his last chemo; be was too susceptible to infection. “I forgot, I shouldn’t have!” Dad apologized. “It doesn’t matter now,” he told my father. He knew that it was now time to hug and kiss.
The wake was actually physically tiring and emotionally exhausting. There was the sweet sorrow of visiting with family members, loved ones, and acquaintances, some not seen in twenty years. It took me several moments to recognize one of my favorite cousins. I hadn’t seen him since we were children, wrestling on the lawn behind his home. We all looked like a grown up version of our self image. Time is persistent and cruel.
We met the old Paisanos from Molanari, Italy who had immigrated to the United States with my Grand Pa George. Danny Caputo was one of Grand Pa George’s Paisanos who politely met me. He shook my hand firmly. I felt the strength built from years of laboring and farming in the old country. He held my hand and gently patted my face saying in a heavy accent “Remember you come form the best town, Molanari.” I met Camille, who was my mother’s best friend. When my parents were first married they lived upstairs at Grand Pa George’s home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Camille lived next door and helped my mother through the first difficult years in a new family. All of these revelations and emotions were a lot to experience on a hot summer night.
We went back to my sisters home by 10:00 PM or so. We sat and talked and had a beer or two. Me, my younger brother and his 13 year old son, Nicky, decided we needed to swim. They watched me do some bad dives off the diving board of my sister’s in ground pool. We splashed and made too much noise for such a night as this, but the neighbors were tolerant.
At some level Nicky knew we needed to release and to laugh. He stood on the diving board and told us be was going to dance. He announced, “I will dance a dance called Earth’s Movements.” He did “Rain” by shimmering is fingers and moving his hands down as he gently swayed. He did “Thunder” and “Hurricane” which were variations of “Rain” but accompanied by more animated movements and sounds. It was wonderful and funny and this 13-year-old wonder, this next generation, taught us to laugh at Earth’s Movements.
I wrote this story in loving memory of my brother, Roy Blake Girolamo. He was born on July 28, 1950, and entered into eternal rest July 5, 2001. It has taken me 6 years to able to share this story. However, he was a teacher and a writer and I feel he would approve. The following verse is taken from the back of his mass card. Even though I wrote this story several years after his passing, I didn’t realize the appropriateness of the theme for Earth’s Movements.
Do not stand by my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there: I did not die.