Friday, September 14, 2007

Memorial Gathering

My cousin Gina died in March, very suddenly of a cancer which was found only a few weeks before she died. A memorial gathering was held this past weekend. I flew out to the Bay Area to attend. The gathering took place at the Middle Eastern Children's Alliance, which is located in a small building in the Flats, the less classy lowland part of Berkeley. Framed drawings by Middle Eastern children cover the walls, along with examples of Palestinian embroidery: shirts and dresses and hangings. High on the walls are posters of Noam Chomsky, Pete Seeger, Edward Said and Rachel Corrie.

My favorite drawing, done by an eight-year-old, was a rider on a winged horse, high in the sky above Jerusalem.

My sister-in-law and I cornered the executive director and asked her what exactly the organization did. She said, "When I tell people, they either think it's wonderful, or they hate it."

MECA sends medical supplies, school supplies, clothing and food to children in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

My brother was acting as MC for the gathering, so wore a handsome suit. My sister-in-law was also handsomely dressed. I worried about being under dressed until I saw the rest of the attendees. I guess I could call them middle-aged counterculture people. They looked pretty much like me.

There was music at the gathering, provided by a friend of Gina's, who played the guitar. The songs were "If I had a hammer," "Last night I had the strangest dream," "This land is your land," John Lennon's "Imagine," and Paul Simon's "Feeling Groovy." The people at the gathering knew most of the words and joined in. According to the singer, these were the songs she sang with Gina the last time she saw her.

People who had known Gina at various times in her life spoke about their memories. My favorite story was told by her ex-partner. At one point one of their friends was going through a very rough period and thinking of suicide. Gina's ex-partner asked Gina if she had ever been so low that death seemed like a good idea. Gina thought very briefly, then said, "Oh no! There are so many good things to eat!"

What else can I say? Gina was a life long political activist, concerned with peace and justice issues; she worked 20 years for a Native American pre-school run by the Oakland public school system; and she raised a son to adulthood. The people who spoke talked about her ability to make and keep friends. One of the people who spoke had known Gina since grade school.

She liked eating out, as does pretty much everyone in my family. She seemed mostly happy. I have decided the best way to remember her is to be happy and send some money to MECA. And maybe I will eat some good food.


Post a Comment

<< Home