Bruce died two years ago today.
The last time I saw him alive was about a month before he passed away. He and Joan and the girls had just come back from vacation, and Maria (in town visiting me and other friends) and I were in Hyde Park to finally pick up her diploma from the U of C, so we stopped by. Sat with Bruce and Joan on the porch, watched their daughters play with the dog and the cats. We promised to keep in touch, actually see each other, but we didn’t.
A month after that, Joan sent an e-mail announcing his departure, just a few hours after he died at home in his own bed. Bruce would be cremated by the same service that had cremated their old pets. A memorial service would be held in September.
When the day of the service arrived, I drove down to Hyde Park with Maria and Clancy, who flew in from New York. We ran into Jacinda at I House (Joe and the baby were at the park for the afternoon), and we found the salon where the ceremony would be held. We squeezed together in a corner of the room, sharing a piano bench and two upholstered chairs. The center was occupied by a large round table. Folding chairs surrounded it, and every one was occupied.
Joan said a few words at the beginning, and then again at the end (I think), and Grace and Skylar said a few things, but the Wiccan service was orchestrated by Bruce’s girlfriend. I never met her properly, and to be honest I really didn’t feel like introducing myself. I felt like I had sadness and love enough for Joan, but not so much for her. But I liked the part of the ceremony where we could light paper scraps on fire and see them float into the air. I even chuckled during the puppet performance when I noticed that the lead butterfly puppet wore a tiny black fedora just like the one that Bruce wore in life. The same hat that sat next to a guestbook and a box of envelopes that contained his ashes.
After the ceremony, I took an envelope of ashes and showed them to Maria, Clancy, and Jacinda. None of them took ashes. I felt like it was an appropriate souvenir, as most of the time I spent with Bruce when we first met was spent sitting on his porch, smoking and talking, waiting for Joan to call us into their kitchen for supper.
The after-party was at Jimmy’s, of course. The Wiccans took the back room while Joan and the rest of us took up the front. The girls had sodas while the rest of us drank pitchers of Leinie’s Red. Joe and Hyacinth met us at the bar, and we cheered when we realized it was the baby’s first visit to the bar. Our old pal Matt Calhoun was working, so he hung with us for a bit when he had a lull between patrons.
It’s a shame that Bruce couldn’t be there to enjoy it. He would have liked it a lot.