Happy Lundi Gras!
So today is Lundi Gras, better known as the day before Mardi Gras and the second to last day of Carnival. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, a day we are supposed to spend fasting and reflecting, in prayer or meditation. After at least two days of eating and drinking, it should come as a welcome respite. Following that we enter into Lent which lasts until Easter Sunday.
For me, this Lenten season will be a time for memories.
My grandfather, Jim, one of the most decent and exceptional men I’ve ever known, and a man whose life helped shape so many, passed away this summer. A devout Catholic, father of eight absurdly successful children and grandfather to too many grandchildren to count (of which I am the eldest), Jim was a hard worker and honest to a fault – an increasingly rare individual in this day and age. He was a school counselor and a carpenter. Restless without some project to occupy him, whenever he would visit he’d find something to fix or build. To his carpenter’s eyes there was always something that could be made more perfect. He was gentle, kind, and old school – quick to smile, quick to give a baby their first bite of ice cream.
My grandmother visited us this past Christmas where she discovered that my wife is often the one who drives, as I very happily ride in the passenger seat or in the back with our daughter. “Jim would never have let me drive,” she said, which was both surprising and not at the same time. My grandpa was certainly not in the least bit sexist, and raised his six daughters to be strong, educated and outstanding women, but he came from a different time, when the men drove and the women stayed home. (In my own little family the woman drives and stays home, though this is a matter of choice rather than custom….)
Lent is a time for prayer and meditation and Carnival a time for celebration. In the end, though, there’s little difference between the two. Celebrate those whose passing we mourn. Pray that our own passing will be mourned as well, that our mark will be one of love and meaning, that what we leave in our little wakes is joy or some semblance of joy.
The Church was filled to bursting with those who came to send my grandfather on his way. Friends, so much family, so much of that small community come to say farewell. So many lives touched by this quiet, gentle man. I’d be lucky indeed, to see such a gathering at my own last going away party.
At the grave my cousins played the lovely fiddle piece Ashokan Farewell. I don’t have video of them, and their performance was stirringly beautiful. Here’s a nice version of it, though. Just picture a sunny day and a grassy field. People dressed in black; the fierce bloom of roses.
To me it is a song of joy and mourning – a good song for the cusp of Carnival and Lent.