My Uncle Al passed away last week. My sister, mom and I took the 8 hour car ride up to his home for the memorial service, and of course 8 hours back. We went mainly for the sake of my Aunt Dot, a wonderful woman who I look at as sort of the family matriarch, even though my branch of the family is a few notches away from hers. Still, she is my grandpa's sister and I can remember her presence from the time I was a little girl onward. In her 80s she walks with the presence and dexterity of a woman 30 years younger and she has the wit and humor to go with it.
But, I didn't have the same kinds of memories of my Uncle Al, yet somehow, when I think of my Aunt, he is in the background somewhere. I am aware of his presence at the same events where my mind places her.
The little church was packed. Standing room only, filled the balcony. A simple service with lots of scripture readings and songs out of the brethren hymnal. During the Eulogy folks stood up and gave their memories and what emerged was a picture of the man. A quiet person, always a smile, never a cross or harsh word. What problems he did have with a person he would say simply to his face in clear terms. Many people talked about the time "Al and Dot" brought food, firewood, coffee etc. Or how "Al and Dot" watched these children or took children here or there even with their own group of 6 kids. It seemed "Al and Dot" were their own team. They were yoked, and they were good at it and people loved and appreciated them for it.
Before we left for the funeral I had just finished selling an oboe and bass clarinet on e-Bay. Not my favorite instruments, but they sell well because they are complicated woodwinds that fill out the orchestral voice.
Maybe that's what made me think about my Uncle Al in musical terms. He wasn't the standout of the flute or piccolo. He didn't sit with the violins in the front all bowing their instrument in unison. No, if he were an instrument, he would have been a bass clarinet, or a bassoon, maybe a low brass. He would have been one of the instruments that added body to the sound, that filled it out, one that you couldn't necessarily pick out individually, but when it is missing the sound doesn't sound as full, or as rich. One that fills in the rich harmonies so that the sparkle of the virtuoso instruments, like my Aunt, like his kids, comes through beautifully. One that if it's missing you can just tell the sound is a little off. That's how it's going to seem for us now I suppose for a while... like the music is a little off without Uncle Al.
Uncle Al and Aunt Dot have become for me a beautiful symbol of living the Domestic Church. I'll have to tell her that.