“He moved with color,” the grief-stricken young woman said of Ivano (ee VAH noh). When she walked to the front of the beautiful Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the several hundred people shifted in their seats, trying to see her. They came alive, not conforming to those straight-back Catholic benches as when the priest talked. And talked. And talked. He was a gentle soul, comforting the people, as best as I could understand, with the promise that Ivano would rispose in pace nella casa di Signore blah blah blah
I kept looking up at the exquisite frescos above the altar. But as the priest spoke, it seemed that even Gesù with his
celestial gold robe, Mother Mary, and their entourage were glazing over, wishing the holy father with just shut the F up.
I enjoyed the sheep parading below Gesù some from the left, others from the right, all meeting the lamb with the halo in the center.
I hadn’t expected to attend a funeral today. But I walked across the Tiber for some of the fabulous zabione gelato I got there last time. Like everything else I had expected of the trip, they didn’t have any. So I got blueberry and chocolate with cream and bits of hazelnuts.
So then off I went with my sweet little cup and tiny plastic spoon to the piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere to sit on the steps of the famous fountain and soak in the sun. Oh, for godsake, can you believe it: the fountain was running over, down the steps, which were all wet and black with muffa…OMG.
So I leaned against a potted tree and began watching the tour group in front of the church. Then a green car arrived with men in black suits whose demeanor was unmistakable—Morticians. And, behind another potted plant, the hearse.
There’s a statue of St. Anthony inside the church that I love. I thought if I wanted to see it, I better go in. By the door was a table with a book to sign in memory of Ivano. I wondered who he was. Inside the church, Istarted toward St. Anthony when I heard enormous clapping for Ivano as six men more him in a box toward me.
Deferring to the deceased, I stood aside. And then it was in watching the mourners, I decided to stay. Let me put it to you this way, I saw only one fashion scarf in the crowd. An orange one worn by a big rumpled man, maybe fortyish, with with black hair and the face of a cherub. Orange, shall we say, is definitely not a fashion scarf.
But the man was weeping, and I thought later he and Ivano must have moved together in color. Another man, younger, twenties perhaps, was inconsolable. Wearing rimless glasses, a green parka, jeans, and black high-top tennis shoes, he looked like someone who might be cast as the intellectual in a Checkov play.
No one was dressed up. We were in one of the most beautiful and cathedrals in Rome, and it could have been Netarts. There were: tthree women with the dye jobs, maybe worked in the place where Ivano got his hair cut. Old men in faded jeans, plaid shirts hanging down below their blue thermal vests. Little kids. Teens with hip but not expensive clothes. Two butch young women. Grandmothers helped in by their sons. No one was dressed for mourning or church, but for what we would call their blue-collar jobs. Their grief was not over the top. It was deep. Profound. Three hundred mourners or more.
The inconsolable young man spoke, his short talk flooded with emotion and the words sempre, tante, tutto: always, many all. When he finished, everyone applauded—not polite clapping but cheering with hands and heart.
And there was also in the young woman’s talk. I couldn’t see her, just hear the words gentile, felice, sempre contento…kind, happy, always content. She then said something that seemed to suggest why only a handful went up for communion: Ivano forgave everyone’s mistakes. More clapping when she finished.
Ivano must have been young. Too young. It didn’t seem fair.
And recognizing this perhaps, the priest seemed to address the question, speaking about the incredibile and giustizia. The hard to believe. And the justice of it all.
Words words words and more words. They might as well have been Greek.
And as I got lost from the language, it seemed to me Ivano’s spirit also felt restless to get out of that box. The candle at his head flickered. I could feel him lift off and fill the grand space, unimpressed by the gold and marble, the art and artifice of faith and love.
Then I no longer had to wish that I could have known this light and sweet and beloved soul. It was enough to know he moved with color, forgave all, was sempre felice e contento, and will always remain beloved.
It was then that I thought of each of you and so many others I have come to know through grief and love and striving, these three and the entirely irrelevant seemed to be striving.
Instead of recognizing special friendships through trinkets I would bring back from Rome, I dropped some euros in your names and so much more in the box beneath St. Anthony, designated Pane Dei Poveri. Bread for the Poor.
Outside I watched a young woman with a marionette, working the strings so the funny little figure painted a picture and then delighted in the coins spectators dropped in an old felt hat.