Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Nick and Tony's Funerals

I sang with the choir yesterday a capella for Nick Ferraro's funeral. Nick was in his mid 80s. He had a big stroke about a month ago. His wife took him home from the hospital for a while. "We'll see how it goes," she said when she told me about it. Then he got worse and had to go back to the hospital again, where he died.

The Church was packed. About 8 or 9 priests who were friends of the family officiated. Theresa, up in the choir loft with me, told me she recognized Italians from all over the valley, many of whom used to live in this formerly predominantly Italian neighborhood. Afterwards, the Church hall was packed for the funeral lunch. A couple came in while I was passing the door on the way to the bathroom. The decibel level of everyone talking at once was very high. There are so many people!" the woman said.

Fr. Antonio in his homily that Nick never said "No" when the Church or the community needed him to do something. Fr. Tony liked Nick because he didn't talk a lot. He said he was a silent good man. I liked it that he kept calling him, "Our brother, Nick." Father said that Nick wasn't important, but he was important to us.

One of Nick and Mae's sons spoke after the Mass. Nick and Mary (Mae) first met when she was 14 and Nick was 17. The son said that Nick would work for Mae's father picking watercress and greens, anything to be near Mae. I think they got the watercress out of Coyote Creek. I've cleaned fresh picked watercress when I was a cook for a rich family in Minnesota for a summer, so I know a little about watercress. Cleaning it is fussy work. Picking it must be fussy too.

Nick and Mae knew each other for 70 years, and they were married for 65.

They had two sons. The son that gave the eulogy said, "We weren't rich. [But] We always had food." He described a rich life with his father hunting in the Warm Springs district for ducks and for mushrooms. Earlier in his life Nick played and coached baseball, supported the family as a painting contractor. The son described big get-togethers with lots of food with other big Italian families, getting together in Carmel to get abalone, sea urchins. He ended with, "My dad and my mother were rich. In love." And then he broke up.

I am not the world's policeman, but I do worry about people's souls. For example, I worry about Tony, a man who is being buried today, who was divorced and going with a divorced woman, named Ruby. Their relationship were fully accepted by their Catholic friends. I think the sexual revolution must have made its impact on the attitudes of these Catholics in their 70s and 80s.

I think that because one time I asked them if there would be any scandal if I brought a male roomer into my house. Go for it, they said. The implication I got from the remarks of the ladies at Rollo's doughnuts that day was that any kind of relationship would be fine.

In Catholic Church teachings, sex outside of marriage when one of the partners has been previously married is adultery. And adultery is always wrong. So as they prepare to bury Tony in a few hours, I pray for his soul. As I said, I am not his judge. I fear God though, and fear for those who don't respect God's laws.

I wasn't totally sure of the exact nature of their relationship because their group of friends called Tony "Ruby's friend." At breakfast at Cozy restaurant on the Alameda, last Sunday, after Tony died, Yvonne told me how much Tony loved Ruby and how he took her to Hawaii. I told Ruby that I'd heard she had taken Tony home from the hospital to care for him until he died, that it was very good and brave of her. Ruby said, "I loved him. He was my life."

Love is beautiful, but the love of another human being shouldn't take precedence over the love of God. That is idolatry. I'm not saying that's what Ruby was doing . . ..

I know that when I was with George, when I was away from him I used to think his name like a mantra: "George, George, George."
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