May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Last week, I went to my dear friend Vikki‘s funeral.

I’d met Vikki through theater friends and Savoynet – she’d started doing shows in England at the festival in 2002, I started the year afterward. Not long after, I joined two local theater groups she was very active in, and by that point we were fast friends. We did the Savoynet Ruddygore together (she was a youthful, but wonderful Dame Hannah) and also, with buddies Carol and Wendy, did a cabaret at the festival that summer.

A few years later, we produced a fun G&S scene review, first at the local society, then at the Gettysburg leg of the festival.

We had a fun relationship, very gossipy, hilarious emails and commentary traded back and forth. I was kind of an honorary member of her girlfriend group, sometimes gathering at a friend’s house to watch the DVD of the latest G&S show. She and her husband, Jack, came to Christmas Eve dinner once. We loved each other a lot (and she and Charles loved each other a lot too), but didn’t hang out together regularly, just picked up the thread where we left off when we did get to see each other.

Vikki and Jack had a summer place up the Hudson, which I’d never visited – and a couple of years ago, around COVID time, decided to leave Manhattan and stay there permanently. They’d already established a presence, singing in the choir of a little church, and Vikki gardening and taking horseback riding lessons.

This next part is all second- and third-hand info, but as I understand it, earlier this year, she had a fall and hit her head – and when they went to the hospital to check her out to make sure she was OK, discovered she had brain cancer! (I don’t know whether the brain cancer caused the fall in the first place, or whether that was just coincidence.) So she had to go through chemo and all that, but it didn’t do the job. When C passed away in May, she was one of many many people who reached out, sobbing, through the phone to me. That was the last time I talked to her… and she was well aware of her own condition, but seemed to be at least accepting of what was going on.

And then we lost her on Halloween.

The viewing and funeral were last weekend. Once Jack posted the info, I did a little research to see exactly where these towns were, and to my surprise, realized that they were actually quite close to Rhinebeck, which is where Charles’s best friend Patti lives with her husband. I’d been up to visit Patti and Peter in August, and Patti has been strongly encouraging me to come up as often as I want – they have a lovely guest suite and Rhinebeck is a lovely town and of course we want to see each other. So I checked with them to see if I could stay, noting that I wasn’t sure how available I’d be, but of course Patti was more than welcoming.

I’d decided to try something new – taking the train up there, but then renting a car. Patti actually came in to Poughkeepsie to pick me up from the train station and drive me the mile or so to the rental car lot (this was totally unnecessary and not a trivial drive for her, but again, more than welcoming). I took Patti out for coffee first, then we found the rental lot. This was an odder-than-expected experience. The traffic was unusually heavy – schools letting out or such. Because of the time of year and day, the sun was low on the horizon and basically in your eyes all the time. The rental car office was in a strip mall, with the cars just in the parking lot… and when the kind young woman showed me out to the first car, she did some checks and discovered that the car’s tires were low, so gave me a different car (after I’d already put the suitcase in the trunk). Then, as I followed Patti’s car as I drove it out, I ended up beeping at her twice to pull over – once because I suddenly freaked and thought I’d left the suitcase in the parking lot and never put it in the (new) trunk. (I hadn’t, it was there.) And then because the car gave me some scary warning which I read to read the trunk hadn’t shut properly when I checked the suitcase, but turned out to be something about the headlights and collision warning and CALL YOUR DEALER and god knows what, nothing I could do anything about.

I was aiming for Red Hook, so I followed Patti for some way until she called me and said, “I will be turning up ahead, but you keep going straight, and then you…” and gave me directions. (My phone was also doing GPS duty, but this was yet another rental Toyota that refused to talk to my phone or display the screen on the car screen, so that was annoying.) And that all happened and I ended up at the funeral home, no problem.

The body had been cremated, so I wasn’t sure what the ‘viewing’ was going to be, but it was much like C’s viewing, but with a lovely engraved box (urn). They also had the video of looped pictures that had been a surprisingly nice touch at C’s viewing. I commiserated with Jack, met Vikki’s brother, and talked to quite a few locals who were old Blue Hill people I’d never met before. It was nice, but none of my friends were there, so I left before the end and headed to Patti and Peter’s. P&P made a lovely dinner and we had a great time talking before I went to bed pretty early.

In the morning, Patti made me ‘pesto eggs’, which were really good and which I need to try to make on my own at some point. Then I headed off to the funeral at Vikki and Jack’s church. The address for the church was just “Woods Road”, no number, and for some reason, Google Maps couldn’t identify the church, so I just targeted Woods Road – and then drove (the wrong way, as it turns out) for several miles just trying to eyeball the church. Once I retraced my steps, Google Maps decided it did know of the church’s existence and I got there just fine.

The church was St. Paul’s and Trinity Parish in Tivoli, and as small and charming. Had time to say hi to our many mutual friends from theater groups down in the city before the service. The service was lovely. Jack had assembled a men’s choir of his friends from various groups, and they performed Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord”, which is a fantastic and melancholy work – and its lyrics got me sniffing a bit.

(the funeral performance was not the best I’ve ever heard, but I appreciated the sentiment)

Vikki’s best friend (and friend of mine), Lesley, did a reading, and Jack and Vikki’s brother did eulogies. Lots of sniffles, very heartfelt. There was a hymn whose tune was Danny Boy, lovely, except of course it made me smile because the tune goes up to that high third of the scale, probably tough for most churchgoers to hit.

And we processed out to the churchyard, where Vikki’s ashes will be interred. A final few words at gravesite, then I conducted the Blue Hill Troupers in “Hall Poetry” (went great) and the men’s chorus sang the Irish Blessing (again, I appreciated the sentiment).

Then off to the Masonic Lodge for a nice collation and a lot of great conversations with some very dear people, and a lot of laughs as well as tears. Vikki was such a delight of a human being, and pretty much everyone saw and loved that light and talent of hers.

All my friends needed to skedaddle back to the city, so there was no ‘afterparty’, but I was staying for another night. I went back to P&P’s, changed into more casual clothes, then went into Rhinebeck for some Xmas shopping, very nice.

P&P fed me again, and also their son and his girlfriend, who came over. A great deal of fun, lovely time with lovely people who I love.

Woke up the next morning, got some coffee, went back to bed to read (and reflect, and cry). The bedroom has a nice big window looking out on the backyard forest, and it started to snow – just perfect and peaceful.

And then got up and got cleaned up and took my hosts out to brunch at Le Petit Bistro, which was really nice. I had French onion soup and Eggs Benedict, and toasted Vikki with a mimosa. It had been a running gag, whenever I went out with Vikki, to post on FB the next day, “Vikki got me drunk again”.

And then we went to drop the car off and they dropped me off at the train station and the ride home was beautiful, all along the Hudson in the snow.

Love you, dear, and I know that you and C are up to some shenanigans together, wherever you are.

Lots going on since, probably to be detailed later. Busy at work, finally moving forward with C’s estate, with Ruddigore, with Christmas. More soon.

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