Death is the most ordinary of events.
I went to a viewing last night for my cousins’ uncle who passed away earlier this week. They are cousins of mine via their maternal branch of their family tree and the gentleman who passed away was from their Dad’s side (who coincidentally is celebrating a celestial birthday today).
Cuban wakes are interesting in their dynamic as we travel from nostalgic to sad to happy to laugh-out-loud recapitulation of memories and remembrances. Our voices tend to reach decibels deemed inappropriate for public mourning, but passion, unfortunately, doesn’t have any volume control.
As we pay our respects for the departed and their surviving loved ones, we use these events to reconnect with old friends and distant family with whom we rarely find the moment to ‘catch up’.
As a delegate of the Hernandez family constituency invading my cousins’ home turf, I was on my best and most charming behavior, carefully introducing myself, highlighting the odd combination of the JU in my first name with the silent H as I pronounce my surname in my native Spanish tongue – Huwan Errrrrnandez, all the while delivering my firmest most genuine handshake.
I shared stories, delivered my condolences to family members and spent time with my cousins’ last surviving uncle and his perpetually charming wife. Walking into a room and embracing people whose emotional touch last saw you many, many years ago (possibly during another life changing event) and connecting with them as if yesterday were truly yesterday, is the definition of extended family – and on this Friday night I was claiming these souls as my own.
As a group of ordinary people gathered for a last hurrah and ultimate goodbye, we were there with purpose. We watched a daughter bid her farewell to a loving dad, we saw a brother elevate a silent prayer for his older sibling, we noticed nieces and nephews pay tribute to their Tio, and we, the relatives of relatives, bloodline strangers and invaders all at once, we paid our respects as well.
We were ordinary people living the most ordinary events of life surrounded by the most extraordinary love.
There was nothing ordinary about that.