Joseph Campbell said there are three great moments in a person’s life: birth, marriage, and funeral.
We held the funeral for my father-in-law Martin Kelly today, and if greatness is measured in the depth of feeling a death sparks in others, Marty’s more than fit the criteria.
Friends and family from all different stages of Marty’s life poured into Wilbraham Funeral Home to admire the pictures the family had assembled, walk by his remains, which were placed in the corner near a cross, a folded American flag and a picture of him during her service in the army, and pay their respects to the family of a man they loved.
Friends from homeroom at Classical High School. Business partners from his stint at A.R. Reid. Fellow officials from the Massachusetts Golf Association. His brother Dick and his sister Ginna, the last of the five Kelly siblings born to William Ayres and Virginia Mitchell Kelly.
And, of course, the golf buddies.
Golf was Marty’s singular passion outside of friends and family. He spent countless hours refining his game on the left side of the driving range at the Country Club of Wilbraham, and his efforts were rewarded with both a reputation as a quality player and an even better guy.
The people in the line that started near one of the four photo panels, around the corner with the urn, by the other panels, past the next room where more golfing photos were arrayed around a wooden table, and continued out the door were not only connected to Marty, though.
Josh’s childhood friends, fraternity brothers from college and work colleagues showed up in force. So did Shaun’s fellow officers from the Chicopee Police Department. Cathy Mackenzie took a day off from work, Stephanie Pasternak made her way in from Cummington, and Sherri Krassin came in from Wilbraham and Monson Academy.
The line was so long that apparently some people did not make it inside during the single hour that was available for visitation before the ceremony began.
It was not just the volume of people that moved me, as impressive at that was. Rather it was the people’s words and the emotion in their eyes as they spoke.
“One of a kind.” “Just a great guy.” “A fixture at the club.” “We had so much fun together.”
And on and on and on.
The ceremony was brief. Father Serrano and a nun offered some words of benediction and prayer, then I read a slightly revised version of the blog post I wrote about Marty on Saturday.
Then it was over.
More visiting followed and then we went to the Country Club of Wilbraham, site of hundreds of thousands of drives and putts and thousands of games during the three decades he belonged there. Overall, the mood was festive and celebratory, even as sadness tinged the air. The club’s flag flew at half-mast in honor of Marty.
Aidan hit on the idea of hitting some drives in honor of Par. He and the other male grandchildren-Dylan, Colin and Jacob-got their clubs together, went to the left side of the driving range and, as their grandfather had done so many times before, drove the ball down the fairway in pursuit of a perfect drive and a continuation of the game that had gotten Marty in the guts as a young man and refused to let go.
Old friend Tommy Henshon, a Brighton boy who came up hard but has made good as a real estate developer, stopped by to give the youngsters a few tips.
The time moved on, as it always does, and, eventually, people started to leave.
By 2:00, we were the last ones there, with Dunreith’s cousin Pam. We headed back to Helen’s house, where we started to unwind, sit around for hours, talk about what we had seen and heard, open cards, admire the flowers people had given, and feel gratitude for all the support people had shown us.
Death is rarely easy. Tomorrow’s burial at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Agawan is sure to be difficult, too.
But the love people showed in so many ways certainly helped cushion the blow.
And for that we are grateful.