The passing of Aunty Judy

I almost had a religious experience last week.image


All the elements were in place. My old home town of Ararat. The old church where I used to be an alter boy. Plenty of family members who still seem to have a religious feeling. My sisters sitting in the same pew which reminded me of those interminably long church services we sat through in our school uniforms one Friday every month. In Latin (at least in the beginning).

But things were different. The old bluestone church is smaller. The stained glass windows are covered by blinds. The dark and foreboding confessionals have gone and in their place stand glass doors and a light atmosphere that seem totally out of place for receiving the standard penance of “5 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys and don’t handle yourself indecently again.”

The pulpit is gone too. The very structure from which an angry Priest launched his crucifix at a talking boy has been removed. And above the Altar, a well lit dome has been installed courtesy of a fire some years ago. The overall affect of all these changes is a less intimidating building but somehow it seems a less important building too.

I think their God has become more welcoming but it certainly isn’t enough to draw this old sinner back into their clutches.

The Funeral though, was magnificent.

The acoustics in this building are a blessing to your ears. Out of respect for Aunty Judy I did not attempt the reworded hymns. It would have been sacrilege. Somewhere on the other side of the church was an older gentleman with an outstanding tenor voice and when heard with the whispered voices of the ladies singing in the pews, it was enough to bring a tear to the eye. At one point in the service a tape was played of Ave Maria which may well have been from Mario Lanza but I think this local chap would have sounded even better.

After an hour of the recalling of memories and some priestly contributions the service was over and we retired to the Cemetery.

I haven’t been there since the very early 70s and the place sure has grown. Headstones for Mothers of school mates and even some school mates lie there and the memories came flooding back.

For Aunty Judy’s funeral this was an emotional and fitting finale. Because her fight with breast cancer had finally ended there were a lot of pink balloons which were released individually into a rain threatening sky. With the heart wrenching strain of KD Lang’s Hallelujah playing gently in the background I can’t think of a more poignant passing.


19 thoughts on “The passing of Aunty Judy

    1. Certainly preferable to the singing voice. And me wanting to be a boy soprano before my voice broke.

      Ta Snowy. It was great to see a cohesive family unit at such a time. The fractured family tree on the McCarthy side hasn’t held together that well.

      The problem with cancer is you rarely get out of it alive. Aunty Judy was diagnosed in 2007 and beat it initially but in Feb it started to act up again. Mind you she made the most of the remission and went on the big trip OS.

      Incidentally, the day of the funeral a close friend was having a full mastectomy. She got her results back yesterday and both lumps were cancer but also one of the removed lymph nodes. The shocking thing is no history of breast cancer in the family which I have always regarded as inevitable.

    1. Ta Kimkiminy. I’ve always told Liz I would like a jazz funeral but this KD Lang track is the definitive salute.

      Perhaps this track at the graveside followed by a trad jazz tune as everyone flees the scene for the traditional family gathering.

      We like the Irish tradition of the wake but I went to a funeral for a young mum who’s parents came out from Germany for the funeral. They were quite distressed by the celebration of the life of their daughter.

      It’s a measure of the wonderful variety of humans that such a serious event can be approached in so many different ways.

      1. So true. Personally, I want a three-day-long Irish wake in which copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, and there should also be lots of eating, singing, dancing, and laughing.

    1. Best of luck for your stepmom akamonsoon.

      I worry for Rosie who has just been diagnosed. When it came to my Dad the first chemo damn near killed him so that couldn’t zap the remnants of cancer but other folk make an excellent recovery and go into remission for years.

      Good luck.

  1. I’m sorry about your aunt. But I don’t go to church any more except for funerals nowadays either. I do miss the liturgical music: I sometimes want to sneak into a back pew and just listen when I hear singing coming out of a church, especially if there’s a beautiful tenor or soprano leading the group.

    But I’m always scared they’re going to start passing the plate or get in line for the Eucharist, and I won’t be able to escape without making a scene. I still fear the routines, even as I love the music. 🙂

    1. Ta HG.

      I’m sure the magnificent music has given the church the edge in holding the flock together and the architecture has helped them too. But I’d rather appreciate the beautiful sounds for their being created by humans themselves.

      This funeral was all the more powerful because of the early memories welded into the physical church itself. Those doubts and fears of childhood days were very much in the forefront of my mind.

  2. My condolences too Peter.

    Snowy once mentioned after attending a funeral that he understood the comfort that some people gain from religion in times of grief. I am sure the ritual and church environment is important for many people.

    Like you, I do not have pleasant memories of weekly church services… my case methodist.

    KD Lang’s interpretation of “Hallelujah” is just magnificent.
    Very appropriate.

    1. Thanks GOF.

      I’m with Snowy on that one. Some folk really need religion and it’s a great comfort for them in their darkest hours.

      I don’t fear Priests anymore and some I really respect but I don’t automatically afford respect to any I don’t know personally and chaps like George Pell live in a “respect free” zone.

      I guess it comes down to the Priest’s focus. If they are “customer facing” as opposed to “God facing” then I have a lot more time for them.

      I’m sure this keeps a worried Priesthood awake at night. 😉

  3. Sorry about losing your Aunty Judy, Peter♥

    The service sounds like it must have been gorgeous.

    If it’s one thing (one of three things) I did love about church, it was the music. I went to this gospel concert (Blind Boys of Alabama) the other day, and their version of Amazing Grace nearly made me cry. When I told my parents, they had the most hopeful look on their face, that I was “returning to the fold”, and then I told them that the bass guitar lines were a learning experience and I would totally work on mine, and that fixed that. Lol!

    1. OK. You have piqued my interest Paikea. What were the other 2? (And don’t say frequent sexual experiences) 😉

      I liked the music when I was an altar boy and also the burning incense but I didn’t much go for the furry tongues when holding the communion plate.

      1. Furry tongues. Ewwww.

        Okay, the two other things – here you got me wishing they were more scandalous!

        1. Church was, strangely, a bonding time for my brother and I. My family’s divorce was nasty – for years after. My brother and I counted on each other to keep ourselves together. At church, my step-dad was the organist, and my mother was in the choir (I was, too, but sometimes I only had to sing for one of the services.) My brother worked the Audio-Visual room – our church was televised – which meant he could leave during the sermon – lol! While my brother and I had to be at church from basically 9-12, we actually managed to sneak out to McDonalds during the sermon of the second service and got breakfast to go – and took it down to the lake (Erie), which was only a block away from the church – to eat it. I don’t know if he remembers, but my brother and I have grown apart, and that was one of the last times, I remember us really getting along.

        2. Daydreaming. I never listened to the sermons, but I loved daydreaming. I am one of those people who you can leave with nothing to do, and I’ll find way too much to do in my head. Having to sit in church for service was often the equivalent of me having nothing to do or think about (other than the music singing and playing), so I daydreamed:)

        1. My Mum and Dad made heavy going of their split up too.

          I thought it was the correct decision to make the break but I hadn’t counted on them visiting each other afterwards to re-argue the aggravation.

          Weird. Both of them were quite intelligent people in their own right so why they would front up for more agro was beyond me.

          Haven’t you fallen from the Church’s promising young star. LOL.

  4. p.s. A couple guys i had massive crushes on also went to my church. As one was in the youth choir and the other was in the bell choir – and I was in both, I was a pretty happy camper – until they both graduated a year ahead of me and went away to college – lol! Both crushes went entirely unrequited, so there wasn’t anything remotely related to a sexual experience for me at church. Hehehe.

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