Three Funerals and a Wedding

Starring Hugh Grant and written by Richard Curtis, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” is a lovely piece that might apply to my family, with a slight twist.

There was a time in my teens when I lost 3 members of my mother’s family in a few short months.

My grandfather succumbed to liver disease, followed very quickly by his wife, who suffered from diabetes. They had a tortured relationship of resentment, regret and alcoholism. They were both in their early 60’s.

The third funeral was quite different, just 2 months later. This was my great grandmother, Mary, who buried her two sons before she went to her rest at 97.

Her funeral was more of a celebration of a life, so purposefully lived. She is my only hope for any sort of longevity.

She was gainfully employed as a bookkeeper/accountant well into her 80’s. What kept her going, it was said, was the affair she was having with one of her physician clients, who was 20 years her junior. Go, Grandma.

1907 Manayunk

Manayunk 1907

Mary was a tiny Irish woman with a will of steel. The Philadelphia neighborhood she called home was taking a downward turn.

Manayunk, a Native American word for “where we go to drink”, is an 18th century community along the Schuylkill River.

It has since undergone gentrification and rebirth, but in the 1960’s, it was known for crime, violence and physical decay.

Family suggested that she sell the house and move to a safer place. She wouldn’t hear of it.

She openly criticized her neighbors, but was determined to hold her ground. This was home, and she wasn’t going anywhere.

She died there, some 70 years after she first arrived.


A community reborn.

Her home featured tropical fish tanks, exotic caged birds, elegant tapestries and white lace table scarves, and always smelled strongly of patchouli.

That, her tiny stature, steely voice and warm heart is what I will always remember.

There was a wedding that followed the 3 funerals.

It involved a cousin that I did not know very well, but provided occasion for the family to celebrate, and to heal.


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24 Responses to Three Funerals and a Wedding

  1. Life in all its ups and downs is just a fascinating journey. My daughter lives in Manayunk. It’s fascinating to hear about its history. Now it’s a place where younger and older live in harmony, a family place and really quite safe thanks to people like Mary who fought to make it such a place.

  2. George says:

    Your grandmother sounds like she was quite a woman. So lucky you had her all those years.

  3. I love reading about those strong women who form the cornerstones for families. They all seem to have minds of their own, don’t they? Your great grandmother sounds like one of them.

  4. Erika Kind says:

    She must have been a very special person and knew exactly what she wanted!

  5. ninamishkin says:

    Great-grandma sounds just great! I have no doubts that what helped keep her going was whatever she had with that sixty-ish client. A role model for us all!

  6. Thank you for the description of your grandmother who lived a long, purposeful life. Wonderful role model for us all.

  7. Oh, a grandmother like that is a treasure. You were so lucky to be influenced by someone so strong with such a good sense of life and having fun!

  8. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, loved your great grandma story. A strong, spicy role model, who lived life to the fullest. We should all be so lucky! Christine

  9. I’m off to a Wedding today. It’s the third one I have been to in the last three months. In April I went to my Step-Father’s funeral, so I’ve been to three weddings and a funeral.

    Thanks for allowing us a glimpse into your Grandmother’s life, Van.

  10. Go, Grandma! I love learning of strong women who came before us….thank you for sharing your family!

  11. lbeth1950 says:

    We do remember the ones with personality, don’t we!. Bless her!

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