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West Jordan body arrived on Sunday, a day on which funerals couldn’t take place. It was placed in the church near the junction that led to West Jordan or to the sea. Many friends, relatives, and apprentices came to the wake, making sure he was never alone. The longest funeral in my memory took place the following day. People came and went from West Jordan house. Uncle Antonio, my mother’s brother and also of West Jordan father, was absorbed in his grief, thinking that this is life and that “blessed are those who have faith and believe in miracles.”

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He’d been living in Rome for almost fifty years, after many years in America and Africa. He’d worked in the post office and now, in retirement, remained in the village three or four months in summer and fall. He was the keeper of the flame of kinship. Every time he came back, he’d visit everyday with my mother and with his uncle Michele. Your travel destination is this wasn’t enough for him.

He would send his two children, and then his nephews, and then us, his sister’s children, to visit his housebound brother. He accepted condolences in silence, occasionally standing up to take a break from the women’s litany of bad dreams, of strange premonitions, the saints in heaven, and of the Lord who loves us and calls us to him.

Maternal cousins, who had been raised in the same home with Gio, alternated deep despair with pleasant memories. They embraced their aunt, who saw this as a wake-up call, and sat composed with the attitude of someone who is waiting for her own death, thinking that to live even a second longer than her dead son is an injustice and a form of needless suffering.

Santo, Gio’s brother-in-law, answered the phone, took care of the documents, and summoned the masons for the burial. From time to time he stood up, walked over to the next room and, unseen by his sons, he would dry his tears.

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