She once traveled the world as a backup singer and dancer for the rapper MC Hammer. And she was my wife’s cousin. That’s about all I knew.
I am told that I had met her a couple of times at birthday parties and barbecues, but if I am to be honest, I must admit that I don’t remember. The personnel of my wife’s large extended family continues to roll around in my noggin and come out as a ball of mush. I have to ask, and ask again, and ask yet again about which side of the family this is and whose ex-, step-, grand-, great- auntie or cousin twice removed this one is. I get confused.
The leaflet on the table in the antechamber bore a photo of her reclining in what must have been a wedding dress, silky white fabric that went on for miles. The surname was hyphenated, reflecting the Filipino and Hispanic heritages of herself and of her husband. And as the chapel began to fill up, the faces were black and white and every shade of brown, coffee and gold. There were three young ladies with long blonde hair seated in the third row, looking as if they were plucked right out of Central Casting. There were afros and crew cuts, mohawks and bald pates, young and old, local and far-flung, believers and non-believers, all connected in some way to Lisa’s life and there to remember, grieve and celebrate.
The staff began escorting visitors to seats, urging the early birds to scoot over and make room for the latecomers, to squeeze just one more person into each pew. People were standing in the back, the lobby was full and still they kept streaming in through the door. Clearly, this was someone very special who they were here for, someone who had touched many hundreds of lives and would never be forgotten.
I did not know you. I am here as a neutral party to support my wife. But as my sister-in-law, two of my nephews, my niece and her baby daughter filed into the pew in front of us, I began to feel the glow of being held tightly within the bosom of my family. I found myself wishing my parents could have made the trip.
And as the family and friends who came up to the lectern and with trembling hands and voices took the microphone to tearfully recount memories of happy days, strivings and successes, proud milestones and stories both quirky and funny, without fanfare I slipped the folded handkerchief out of my pocket.