The bells sounded out two tones, a solemn bong which faded before a higher-toned clang followed. They tolled mournfully like that for about fifteen minutes, telling everyone in the village and the surrounding countryside that a funeral would be held shortly. We've heard the funerary bells before, but it's somewhat chilling when you know the person they're tolling for. It gave me goosebumps.
Our upstairs neighbor passed away last week. He had been in the hospital for several days in a coma after fluid had built up in his brain. He died on Thursday and the funeral was held Friday, a very fast transition compared to our American rites. When my grandparents died, the funerals were held three or four days later.
Signore Fabrizio was unwell since I first met him in January. He was mostly solo, alone; his kids didn't come to visit him though his brother, also elderly and not in great health, did stop by a few times a week. The barista would dole out his medication to him in the morning, and another lady brought him lunch every day. He scuffled along slowly, but when we were heading toward the piazza at the same time, I'd slow down and walk with him, chatting along the way.
He was, according to most of our acquaintances, a bit of a curmudgeon, but he warmed up to me and would smile broadly when I waved or greeted him. He even offered me a caffe one morning, which made the barista stop in her tracks and look at me in surprise. "Ma, Fabrizio doesn't pay for anybody's coffee," she exclaimed.
Sometimes I'd find him on a sunny bench in the piazza and he would wave an American-style wave back at me, even when sitting with other elderly gents. They've since picked up the habit and it makes me smile when I see them waving their arms at me and wishing me a buongiorno.
I didn't know him well, but I did become fond of the old guy, and I hope that in some way I was able to brighten his last days a bit. After the funeral we were introduced to the parish priest. He greeted us warmly and said how happy he was that our village had two new residents. A villager had passed away but two people had recently arrived...the cycle of life.