I have written before that in Provincetown in February, the dead outnumber the living. On a frigid, so-clear-you-can-see-to-Plymouth day, it seems especially true.
Yesterday, I drove down from Hyannis to Provincetown for the funeral, or celebration of life, of a well-known town character. It was cold–just hovering around 20 degrees–and the town was empty. Most sane people were home, where it was warm.
The service was in the Unitarian Universalist church, an old 1840s era building with two chapels and trompe l’oeil frescoes adorning the walls. The same artist painted the UU church on Nantucket.
In the 1840s, the two towns must have shared more similarities than they do now. Nantucket in the 1840s was a world center. Somewhere along the way (I’d say 1916), Provincetown became the more cosmopolitan of the two. It’s hard to know if those kind of distinctions hold any meaning in the hyper-connected world we are in today. Sure, “the world comes to Nantucket,” but I don’t need to wait for the world to come to me anymore. (However, still I wait.)
The celebration was particularly moving because it was for someone had lived their life exactly the way they had wanted to. This meant no “traditional” family structure. There was no wife, no husband, no children. No brothers or sisters–a cousin and a college roommate were the ones who’d known him the longest.
But there were friends. Drinking buddies, coworkers, hangers-on. Pals, sympaticos, confidantes. There were friends whose relationships blurred over the years–from more than friends to friends and back again.
There was a woman in a fabulous fur coat in the spartan chapel. (The former Hicksite Quakers who became some of the first Universalists were rolling in their unmarked graves.)
He was not alone at the end, the confidante tells us. I think the entire church sighed in relief.
(Pretend you are talking to a friend.)