Family Ceremonies

Started January 22, 2020 

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

A trip to family.   The plan is to visit Gabby, Mamal, and the kids for a couple days and then have a simple "commitment" or burial for Magdalena in Monterey. Not much more planning than that.

On Wednesday morning we packed up, including ashes in its golden container, and drove to Monte Sereno, avoiding almost all traffic. I wish all these trips were as easy.hugs

gaggleAs soon as we got to Gabby's, it was time to pick up Ava and Sam from school. In today's world, almost all of the school children are picked up by a stream of cars driven by moms, dads, grandparents, and babysitters. No more walking uphill, both ways, to school. Gigi barely had time for the required hug before the traffic control shooed us along.

From school, we opted for lunch at the Los Gatos Cafe, a popular village landmark. We used the inevitable wait for a family picture. For the meal, the grownups had salads and the kids had waffles or pancakes with eggs and bacon. Sam showed off his new braces.

familylunchSam braces

From lunch, Gigi and Gabby split off to do some shopping. That is something that is better done in the prosperous Bay Area than in Fresno, or so I am told. That left me with chauffeur duty. Wednesday school is a short day and that means there is a stream of after-school activities. First, we dropped off Sam at his English tutor's for a hour of extra help. Ava and I hung out in the car, working on our computers. She did homework and I wrote diary pieces.  That's quality time nowadays.

golfershomeworkSam's next appointment was a golf lesson at La Rinconada Golf Club. He is actually a pretty darn good player, and I am a perfectly unbiased Opa. This time, however, I didn't watch the lesson since Ava had a bit more homework to do so she and I settled into the Club lounge for more screen time. Pretty comfy.

After golf, we headed home, but Ava and I could not stay long. We grabbed a quick bite and left for her tennis lessons. While she concentrated on crossing shots, backhand and general skills, I tried some pictures. I did not have my "sports" camera and lens, but it was nice trying while seeing all the kids having fun. And Ava is great, Opa says.


Dinner included the whole crew, except Sam who had been too "starving" to wait. Discussion included the pending Saturday commitment ceremony and the seeming differences between the folks at dinner and those that would be coming down from Fresno on Saturday. Families.

dawnAn early start on Thursday, just like regular travel. I worked in a Starbucks "office" session for diaries, before I got the milk needed back home for Gigi's palacsinta. Ava and Sam always look forward to the Hungarian breakfast crepes. And I had a little time for a nice sunrise picture at our resort.

While the kids were in school, and Gabby went to her hairdresser, I needed exercise.  Going to a gym was possible, but I opted for a long walk instead.  The neighborhood has dozens of huge and elaborate homes.  Walking past, I could only imagine which captains of Silicon Valley live behind the fences, walls, gardens, and elaborate porticoes.  A fixer-upper around here is a few million dollars and there were not more than a few in my two-hour walk.

creekbridgeI had brought along my camera, but pictures of mansions did not strike my fancy. Instead, I looked at small things: moss on a bridge rail, winter daisies. a falling down fence. Here they are. Like any?

moss island moss cliff
spikies leaf rock

Gabby came back from the hairdresser and then she and Gigi returned to have Marianne's new wig trimmed. Deb has been doing Marianne's hair for decades, but this was a new and simpler task.  (I'll add a picture as soon as I remember.  It looks pretty good!)

Speaking of wigs, Marianne had also looked at a local "Cancer Shop" for a wig and decided two would be better than one.  Now she has a Friday appointment for a trim.  (I'll take another picture after all is in order.)

serviceMidway to the Cancer Shop, our red Jeep broke down, sort of. An alert came on about the diesel exhaust treatment system and when I read the service manual, it sounded like immediate service was in order. Great, on the road and needing service. We drove down to the local dealer and pleaded our case. The good news was that they took our car for diagnosis, but the bad news was that this would only happen on Friday. (The standard charge in San Jose for the diagnosis was $495 while in Fresno it is $180. This is one of many aspects of the local cost-of-living.)

tv viewingBack home, we had a quick taco dinner and then Gabby had to go back to the tennis club to pick up Ava after her third 90-minute class of the week. It's a good thing she likes the sport and it is good that she manages all her homework as well. Good kid. (Opa's objective assessment.)

When it was all over, Gabby and her mom collapsed on the couch "watching" television.

We had limited activity on Friday.  Kids had school, of course, and there were birthday parties both at school and after, so they left the house happy. I forget what Marianne and Gabby did, but I got in some reading.  It is surprising how little time I have for reading, even when traveling away from hair

I took Marianne to an afternoon trip to the hairdresser for a trim on wig#2.  Looks good.

After hair, I headed down to the Jeep dealer to see if they had finished. They had. That was the good news. The bad news was the $495 charge that I could not convince Max the service guy should have been under warranty. His only option he offered me was to contact Chrysler Jeep and plead my case. I will, but not hold my breath. For most of the six years we had driven the diesel Jeep, I have liked it, but I am wondering if we have reached a new level of unreliability. And my Cybertruck won't be built for a couple of years.

For dinner, our little family went to Tomato-Thyme, a pizza-and-games place. Sort of a higher end Chuck. E. Cheese. The ambiance was pleasant, the food good, but the games were not too productive. The kids went through three bunches of quarters and only won one little ten cent prize. Ice cream at Baskin Robbins was the consolation.

Mamal GabbSam Avaice cream

Saturday was the focus of this trip. Magdalena Nagy's ashes would be placed to rest in Monterey. I put on my black suit, the sole remaining suit from the old work days. A wedding and funeral suit. (Bad news was that it fit - pointing out that I need to re-lose some weight.)

Marianne and I left early and, at the last minute, decided to swing by San Carlos Cemetery to be sure preparations were in place. They weren't. Our planned ceremony was not on the schedule and nothing had been done to prepare the plot. Oops. Louis, the grave tender, called his boss and they reassured us the problem would be resolved in the 90 minutes we had left before everyone would arrive.

San CarlosblankLouis digs

We spent our waiting time at the bakery in the Cooper-Molera Adobe in the old center of Monterey. Mamal, his mom, and the family met us there and we started the day with plenty of calories (at least I did).

goodiesfancy foodMGS


When we made it back to the cemetery, Louis had indeed solved the problem of the missing appointment.

Waiting for our group to arrive, we glanced at neighbors.

CaboCemeteries are filled with stories, some of long lives like Magdalena's, and others cut way too short, like that of 19-year-old soldier Cabo Diaz.

Sam and GPart of preparation was explaining cemetery details to the youngest since they had never even been to one. Sam was particularly somber, but wanted to know all the whys behind the place. Part of growing up.

open cermoniesfamilyAt close to the scheduled time, all 19 of us had arrived and Marianne opened the ceremonies. There was no priest or minister, just family. We started with reading of poems that had been selected to reflect on Mamo's life and spirit. Each was read by a family volunteer.

covers read boys read

Next, Magdalena's ashes were sealed in a small casket and lowered into the ground.

aml Samletterlacement asket

 Flowers were added by everyone, as a sort of colorful blanket I suppose.


Next was refilling with earth, more somber than with flowers.



The formalities were closed with a final sprinkling of holy water.

The rituals, words, lowering, flowers, hands of dirt, and sprinkling of water all was as Mamo would want it: family-centered, traditional, and more smiles than tears. Now she can, indeed, rest in peace.

After the ceremonies, there were a few more pictures. That's today's families' tradition.

kids family Klare and boys
Louis Elemer


From Monterey, Marianne and I went north to Santa Cruz to visit with friends Rita and Pete. The "girls" reminisced about events over their decades-long friendship, a friendship that provides strength on both sides.

I chatted with Peter about more current matters, more somber subjects of a burial and medical conditions as we all age. Sobering, for sure, but for today we could all stand tall and pose with smiles.

In the coming week. we will get on with what is now "normal life": one more chemo session for Marianne and a routine medical procedure for me. We may look back on a family funeral weekend as more fun.

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne