We're back in my hometown this week for my great uncle's funeral.
I wasn't overly close to my uncle, but we decided to come back for my grandpa and my mom. I'm glad I did.
It was the most amazing funeral. I've never really seen such an immense testament to the fullness of a man's life. He was a fireman-- the chief for around 30 years. He was a father, a stepfather, a grandfather, a brother, a husband, an uncle, and from the amazing number of mourners, a friend and community leader. Hundreds came to calling hours. The day of the funeral, 300 came to the funeral mass. The priest almost broke into tears during the homily. Fire Engines from 15 different towns came to take part in the processional from the church to the grave site. Behind the hearse, 3 limos carried the immediate family. Behind them, the fire engines, chief's cars, sheriffs cars, and others. Then there were the rest of the mourners. Cars for the 8 miles between the church and cemetery had to pull off to the side of the road to let the procession pass. EMTs, Police, and Firemen all along the route stepped out of their cars and out of their stations and stood at attention as the procession passed. When we arrived at the cemetery, 2 hook and ladder trucks--one from each of his firefighting sons' towns--made an arch for the procession to pass under. In the rain, 20-30 firefighters stood at attention as the procession passed and then as the final prayers were said over the casket.
I have never seen such a thing. I've never even heard of such a thing as this funeral. It made the Cleveland news, it made the front page of the local newspaper.
My uncle was buried in a family plot, next to his mother and father under the brown marble St. Anthony that I've visited since I was a child. His brothers wobbled. One almost collapsed. His widow seemed numb and distraught.
Funerals are always difficult, no matter what your beliefs. No matter how close you are to the deceased. It's hard to see people who are always strong cry. It is hard to see the end of one chapter for a family.
But the funeral of Mickele Calderone was a testament to what a life can be.