Burying the Bannons
In 1977, when I was 17, my father died quite suddenly. When I married Steve in 1981, it was my mother’s brother Bill who flew out from New Hampshire to give me away. Bill had 10 kids of his own and was glad to do the honors. With him came my mother’s sister Ruth and brother Joe. (The passage of time prevents me from remembering if her brother Bob also made the trek west.) My mother Joanne was the youngest of the five Bannons and I’m sure that they felt it was their responsibility to support their baby sibling. Plus a trip west was never a hard sell.
Joanne succumbed to cancer in 1996 – the first of the Bannons to pass on. I’m sure it hit her siblings hard but, being stoic Irishmen, they rarely said much more than toast her memory when I made my way east.
In 2005, we had a Bannon family reunion on the 16-acre farm my sister and her family lived on in New Hampshire. Time had not been kind to Bill Bannon. Though still possessing a wicked sense of humor, cancer had also struck him, ultimately taking him a year or two later.
In 2011, Bob Bannon followed the path of his baby sister and older brother. He was found in his easy chair at home where he had been reading.
And then there were two.
Ruth, the second eldest of the Bannon clan, was the matriarch of the Bannon family. She always had something nice to say. I remember one time when she visited my house in California, she commented on some baked beans I had in the crockpot.
She asked if they were “home made.” I said yes, thinking she was asking about the recipe I had pulled together using barbecue sauce, onions and green peppers. She exclaimed how impressed my nana would be if she knew I had taken all that time to soak the beans and such.
I clarified that I had used canned beans and pulled the rest together. She recovered quickly, saying how smart I was to save all that time.
She had all the family history and, having discovered some lore that I was curious about, I swore that I was going to make the time to visit Aunt Ruth.
But time was not on my side and in February Ruth joined Joanne, Bill and Bob.
Then, after celebrating Easter with his kids and grandkids last month, Uncle Joe made that final journey.
“We carried him like a wounded soldier across my brother’s lawn and into his home,” wrote my cousin Peter. “He did not eat hardly anything and sat quietly at my brother’s home on Easter. But both my boys and my brother’s kids got to see my Dad on Easter. We all did.”
A former high school principal, an estimated 400 people attended Uncle Joe’s wake.
I’m sad to think that the core of the Bannons are all gone. But before I become too maudlin, I’m reminded of something my cousin Dan, Uncle Bob’s son, shared with us.
“Just now [I] realized that the brochure my dad was reading, when the Lord came for him, is titled: ‘Let the fun begin(™) – Things to know before you go.’ Friends, trust me when I say: there are worse things in heaven and earth.”
To the Bannons – until we meet again.