May 28, 2010 by 8junebugs
Memere died peacefully on the evening of Pentecost Sunday, surrounded by her children, just after Father O’Donnell delivered her last rites.
From the obituary:
YVONNE M. GINGRAS — Born May 20, 1927, in Cornwall, the eldest of eight children, to Alfred and Irene Rheaume. She received her early education in Cornwall and later graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 1945. She married J. Bernard R. Gingras on September 2, 1946, at St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Middlebury.
Together, they farmed the family farm on Snake Mountain Road in Weybridge and raised seven children. Besides being a wife, mother, and grandmother, she was active in Catholic Daughters of America, Home Dem, and 4-H, and she taught catechism for many years. She loved to dance and enjoyed gardening, sewing, quilting, rug hooking, and baking. She was a two-time winner of the Leona Thompson Award for her quilts at the Addison County Fair and Field Days. She made beautiful wedding cakes for over 30 years, taking great pride in their creation.
Yvonne was very devout in her faith and was a lifelong member of St. Mary’s. In her later years, she was Sacristan at the church and took much pleasure in making baptismal bibs.
Yvonne’s biggest joy was her family and having family get-togethers — she rarely turned down a good game of Scrabble, Rummy, or dice with her grandchildren.
Yvonne is survived by her children, Norman and wife, Sandy, of Memphis, Tenn., Paul and his wife, Susan, of Weybridge, Marianne Harcourt and husband, Andy, of Deerfield, Mass., Gary and wife, Suzanne, of Atlanta, Ga., Yvette Wright and husband, Jerry, of Shoreham, Marc and wife, Kathy, of Newport, and Jane Ploof and husband, Scott, of Bristol; 14 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren [and two more on the way], and one great-great-grandchild.
She also leaves behind a sister, Shirley Longchamp, and her husband, Alfred, of Graniteville; two brothers, Gerald Rheaume of Starksboro and Kenneth Rheaume and wife, Loretta, of Bristol; and a sister-in-law, Elizabeth Rheaume, of Cornwall.
She was predeceased by her husband, Bernard ; two brothers, Leo and Lawrence, and two sisters, Betty Jane Robichaud and Barbara Gagnon.
I’m going to say what you’re not supposed to say: I’m not sad. I sat in that church where Memere and I both made our first communions, where my grandparents were married, where my parents were married, and I wasn’t sad. She believed so mightily in her faith that it doesn’t matter how much we’ll miss her or whether I believe in everything the Catholic Church says or does — this was her homecoming, the fulfilled promise that has guided her 83 years, and her reunion with the loves of her life.
Memere expected all the grandchildren to have a role in the Mass. KidBrother and two other grandsons were pallbearers (as well as some distant cousins). Three granddaughters carried the gifts for Communion, and three of us did the readings, the responsorial psalm, and the intercessions (or Prayer for the Faithful). Five of us were missing and very, very missed — two of them are so much a part of my memories in the family and in the church that sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen because they weren’t there. Both are abroad and it’s completely okay that they couldn’t be with us. I just missed them.
I’m not sure I’m as devout a Catholic as Memere supposed when she suggested who should do what and why…okay, it’s a safe bet that I’m not. Even so, I found a tremendous amount of comfort in the rituals of the church that was the other half of her life. The liturgy says, “Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us,” but it could just as easily be, for us, the words that Memere taught us. Regardless of dogma and politics, it’s incredibly powerful to stand holding hands with a couple of generations of a family, reciting the same words and hoping for the same thing for the one we’ve lost.
My aunts and uncles decided to give me the rosary Memere held in her casket — Mom gave it to her, and they thought it was right for it to come back to me. I don’t really need much else in the way of keepsakes, although there are a few things I would like someday. If I need to feel close to my grandparents, I can walk into any Catholic church in the world and be instantly drawn back to Christmas Eve Mass and the dinner at the farm.
For anyone who wonders why I’m still a Catholic, that’s 80% of the answer.
This was my first proper Catholic burial process: Wake, Funeral Mass, and a graveside goodbye. The wake was difficult for two reasons: First, I’ve never seen a dead body before (the casket was open for family) — they did a lovely job, but I kept watching for her chest to rise with her breath.
Second, my mom did a lot of hair and makeup for funerals over the years. I’m quite sure she expected to do this one. That did make me cry.
So did watching my dad and my aunts and uncles file out of the pews after saying goodbye to their beloved mother. I realized that we now share a secondary bond, and I felt a squeeze on my heart that had nothing to do with losing my grandmother.
(Let’s not diminish the genetic bond, though — according to Boo, I make one of the same faces as her mum. Which is fine, as long as it means I look as good as her mum when I’m 58.)
Still, this is the perfect time to have an enormous family. A couple of years ago, this funeral might have been the first family gathering for me a long time and the people in those pews would have been strangers to me. Instead, I had company on more than half the drive (I picked up Boo in Philly — yay, Philly!), a wide network of shoulders to lean on, and a room full of people with a shared sense of humor and a lot of love for each other.
Even when I’m on my own, I’m not alone. Not even close.
For that, and for the woman who started it all with the love of her life, I’m very grateful.