Last night I went to a funeral, at a chapel near a nursing home in north Minneapolis.
The woman who had passed was a long-time member of my church, from back in the St. Paul's days. She was well-known as a consistent volunteer with our Free Monthly Community Dinner.
The neighborhood was old Eastern European, as were the many residents at the nursing home. Their chapel was small but ornate, lots of dark carved wood and old-fashioned pews. The altar was barely more than an alcove, but gilded and somewhat Catholic in detail, very old-century. The home itself seemed very down-at-heel, a sixties construction of brick, wedged in between two unrelated structures on a narrow sidestreet. The name of the home might have been Mallory Place, or something similar. John, our building manager at Grace Center, said he recognized the place as one where an aunt of his lived, or had lived in the past.
I was a little ashamed that I couldn't recall the name of the deceased; she was someone my friend Cathie would have known better than I, since I only occasionally attend the Dinners. I stood before the lectern-like table at the entrance to the chapel, peering over the shoulders of other gatherers, trying to reach one of the funeral bulletins -- the pre-printed floral kind that funeral homes often provide, with the name and dates of birth and passing inside. I tried to reach the nearer guest book, hoping to find a clue in there. I certainly didn't want to ask someone the very name of one I'd come to mourn.
Other members of my church were there, mostly older. Craig was there too, though not presiding. Cathie had come as well, but was engaged with others in conversation as we entered the chapel. There was a service, the details of which escape me now. (Side note: I'm sitting on the train, typing this into my BlackBerry, and a girl across the aisle from me has just gotten her eyelash curler jammed up -- she had to pry it off her eyelid, and was gasping and laughing in embarrassment. Yikes.)
Anyway - the presiding clergy were more like priests than pastors, dressed in ornate Episcopalian robes. One priest seemed to be Paul from St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. The other turned out to be, surprisingly, my old colleague Yuri from the local art scene. Both are gay, though I'm not sure why this matters. Both were apparently old friends, and well-acquainted with the deceased woman. At the end of the service, Paul asked Yuri to join him at the altar, and they made the assembly laugh by cavorting and pulling faces. It was as if they'd been known for such antics, years before when the two worked together regularly. Everyone responded with good humor.
I don't recall now what happened next; I never learned the name of the elderly woman who died. I remember sitting on the passenger side of a car, though, as it traveled down a broad boulevard; and seeing off to my right a building I recognized as the one where Chuck Mahlmann's funeral had been held.
Such a long train ride...