I remember Arthur’s wedding day.
Strange to think of now.
Helen, his betrothed, called to arrange music.
My, the traditional things she wanted -
old music friends
(“from when I was young…” she said.)
She called at a time
when church wasn’t thrilled
to have songs of Streisand
or tunes of Neil Diamond.
Wedding directions -
“church” wasn’t sure it wanted
Wagner or Mendelssohn.
“I’m 72 and it is my first marriage”
Anything you want, I’ll handle it!”
Arthur was on a walker,
navy blue suited, white boutonniere
and a forever smile.
Helen had been a care-giver
to Arthur’s first wife.
Years of care, years of suffering – a loss for all.
Now, it was Helen and Arthur’s sweet wedding.
Helen would surface intermittently,
at the market or church gathering,
doing errands for Arthur.
They had five years,
and Arthur was gone.
Most might see five years and question -
but loving and caring and sharing -
two saw life together.
Was love lost with Arthur?
I think not.
Helen said her “good-bye” with their favorite hymns.
She planned a fine funeral for Arthur
requesting “Panis Angelicus”.
There would be a Mass in the stately building,
part of the cemetery complex
some distance away.
The cemetery attendant escorted me to the organ.
Through the lower door,
up the narrow stairs,
within the white marble rotunda,
there was an old, blonde, wooden pipe organ,
with most, but not all of the keys working.
I was to practice softly
because every half-hour
another funeral Mass would be said.
Looking over the balcony
produced thoughts of accidents
that need not be related now.
As I tried out the stops I found three to work
of the dozen that were offered.
One key played most of the time,
but there was little time.
Arthur’s Mass was in fifteen minutes.
I solved the problems,
used sounds unfamiliar to my ear,
but with the hope
that Helen would be soothed in her grief.
One body went out the east door
and Arthur’s body came in the west door.
Old favorite hymns preceded “Panis Angelicus.”
The requested song was of such timing
that three verses could be played
with prayerful embellishments.
Arthur left by the eastern door,
and I left the loft
before any body came in from the west.