We had a wake for Aidan tonight. Many people came. They hugged us, they remembered with us, they brought a great deal of love into the room. It was a beautiful thing.
People from all walks of life came: my colleagues; Maureen's colleagues; Maggie's friends and teachers; three different barbers who had cut Aidan's hair at one time or another; doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. The neurologist who had cared for Aidan from the start drove in from Shutesbury. Aidan's teachers and aides from his school in Albany came. Maureen's aunt from Putnam county came up unexpectedly. There were people from every stage of Aidan's life, every facet of his experience. It was a marvelous demonstration of the reach of his love.
Afterward, I was speaking to my sister and she said that she did not like the custom, that it put too much stress on Maureen and me, having to stand and greet all those people. But I disagreed. For us, the ritual worked exactly as it was supposed to. We grieve, but that grieving is comforted by a steady stream of human contact and love. With each encounter - and there were many - I gained a bit more strength. With each hug I could see more clearly the presence of Aidan in the world. With each exchange of heart-felt words, I could appreciate more fully how many people love him and us.
This is what Confucius meant by ritual. Not a mere going through the motions. But a real human interconnectivity, a passionate sharing of, in this case, sorrow, and a promise to live and love one another as we go forward. It was a beautiful thing. People are good.