One of our across the street neighbors died last week, the wife of a couple that G knew from her social work before we ever moved here. Rosa was barely a year older than I, but I almost never saw her unless she was heading down the road, sitting on the back of her husband’s motorcycle. The whole family are bikers. When one of the kids got married, the entire wedding reception showed up at the house on their Harleys and took off down the street in fine style, banners and “Just Married” signs flying, tuxes and leathers mixed. We kept an eye on their grandkids from time to time. Their daughter and her family moved back in there for a while, and the son-in-law ran a little auto repair business in the side yard. Then they (the daughter and her husband) separated and everyone moved out, but gramma still looked after the kids.
We knew she hadn’t been well for a while; as I said, she rarely left the house and I think the last time I saw her on the bike was last spring. In the last few weeks, the ambulance came to the house a couple of times. Then, the notice in the paper. We went over to offer condolences, sent a big fruit arrangement and offered what help we could.
Today, we were getting ready to head out to lunch with a friend when a couple of cars pulled up and parked on our corner. G, ever vigilant, went to the window and watched the occupants walk over to the neighbor’s house. Then, the rumble started. From blocks down the street, the distinctive thunder of a herd of Harleys came roaring. Moments later the street in front of Daniel’s house was full. There were probably at least 60 motorcycles, most with couples riding together, gathered there to pay their respects to Rosa. A long procession of cars lined up along the street, too, a number of low-riders, tricked out, along with limousines and a police motorcycle escort as well. A couple of volunteers directed traffic and the riders all dismounted and gathered in the front yard. A huge three-wheeler trike pulled a specially made trailer with the casket fastened securely to it.
G and I watched quietly from the porch. The bikers gathered all around Daniel and his family, heads bowed, very quiet. We couldn’t hear a sound, but noticed that many of the bikers had carried boxes of tissues with them. After a few minutes, the group broke up and everyone got back on the bikes. We thought we recognized another biker friend of ours piloting the big trike with the trailer. I hope it was him–he is just the kind of guy to do that. Daniel and his daughter Joey were right behind on his bike and we waved to them, and blew kisses, our hands over our hearts for her and for them. One of the bikers raised his arm and circled it and as one, all the bikers and the cars in the procession revved their engines for a moment, a growling, metal song for a woman who loved to be on the road. Then, in one long, coordinated line, they rode off down the street, headed to the cemetery to lay Rosa to rest. The silence after their departure was deafening. I’ll never forget those few moments and feel privileged to have witnessed it.
Ride on, Rosa, ride on.