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ATTENDED BY STRANGERS

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

April 7, 2020

The funeral was shattering.

We never got close to the neighbor; we still don’t even know her name. Of course all of the neighbors stood as far apart as possible. Even those of us who know each other, who wave cheerily as we walk our dogs or back out of our driveways, couldn’t look at each other. The pall over the street hung black and heavy as a cloud of smoke.

It was cloudy at 10 this morning, and outside there was that unnatural quiet we’re all getting used to. No traffic, no sounds from the business district a block away. Three black cars were lined up in front of the neighbor’s house, the last one a hearse.


People came out of their houses and stood on the sidewalk on both sides of the street. We wore sweats, jeans, slippers, even a bathrobe or two. A few cradled cups of coffee. It wasn’t anything like a real funeral.


The neighbor appeared. She wore a sweatshirt and jeans, too. She walked fast to her car, which was parked at the curb. As she got in we heard her crying and talking at the same time. “This is not right, this is not right. What are we doing?” she said. “What is this?”

She got in and pulled behind the hearse. We couldn’t hear her anymore but we could see her crying behind the wheel. I thought of my mom, who died in 1998 — the funeral, and especially the gathering of friends and family at the house afterward. All the food we served. The stories, the hugs.

I said a prayer for my neighbor, and for her mom, whose funeral was attended by strangers. Who didn’t get a funeral at all.

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