The Day of the Dead Post that was not Written

This would have been the perfect writing prompt for a Day of the Dead post: a big family memorial service for my uncle Jim, my mother’s younger brother, once well-known in the Denver legal scene.

But I am not writing that post, full of ancestral stuff.

He died in September, in Sun City, Arizona, where he lived after retirement, but the memorial was delayed until today, for reasons that I am not privy to.

His brother, Robert, told me that his ashes would be interred in a columbarium at the Episcopal cathedral in Denver. Columbarium is Latin for pigeonhole or dovecote, basically. Depending on the design, your “cremains” go into something like a post office box.

Robert had said that Jim’s would be placed with those of his mother and sister. These compartments are built under a broad sidewalk. As a high school senior, visiting the cathedral during some sort of humanities class trip devoted to ecclesiastical architecture, my girlfriend and I danced up and down that sidewalk, because I wanted to say that I had danced on my mother’s grave — in advance.

My mother and I were not too close.

When she died, I did the medical power-of-attorney thing, making last decisions at the hospital, and then handled her estate, but that was out of filial duty — and neither of my sisters wanted the job. They had their own issues with our mother.

Although I take after my mother’s family physically, I am not too close to them either — even though I have about twenty cousins on that side. For some reason, Uncle Robert never emailed the final details about the service and reception, and it says something that I did not know whom to call. Nor was I about to drive 150 miles to Denver and then hang around the cathedral, waiting.

Besides, had I gone, I would have missed the neighbors’ Bonfire Night party. (She’s British, in case you’re wondering.) As I started writing this post, with the front door standing open for the afternoon warmth, I heard a chainsaw whining in the distance — probably Bernie cutting more wood for a big fire. It’s a tradition on our road, and I wonder who the “Guy” tossed into the fire will be this year.

Last year’s party came a week after the forest fire, and the party-goers were split between the people who still had their homes and those who did not but came anyway.

This year, anyway, the village is more important than distant kin.