today in astor-ia

Live-Blogging Mrs. Astor’s Funeral


Photo: Getty Images

We’ve just learned that St. Thomas Church has live audio feeds for many of its major events, which you can tune into here. Which means, you guessed it — death-blogging! We’ll sit here and listen to all of the action at Brooke Astor’s funeral, so you don’t have to. Expected guests include luminaries like Martha Stewart, Walter Cronkite, Annette de la Renta, and various senators and socialites. We’ll do our best to identify them by their muffled coughs (or in Cronkite’s case, his irritated hack).

2:21 p.m.: The funeral dirges have begun. We can hear quiet murmuring. This part is a little bit boring, so we’ve turned on our Windows Media graphic visualizer, which is making pretty patterns to go with the festivities.

2:34 p.m.: The priest has told everyone to turn off their cell phones. No mention of BlackBerrys, or small yappy dogs in handbags.

2:37 p.m.: A choir is singing Bach. You can follow along with the program here.

2:41 p.m.: They are now singing the hymn “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past.” It seems like the crowd really knows this one. Must have gone to prep school!

2:50 p.m.: During Psalm 121, everyone is standing. According to the program, there’s a lot of up-and-down, but they’re moving through it pretty quickly, so the old people will probably make it. Meanwhile, the choir is quite lovely-sounding. We bet they have cute robes.

2:55 p.m.: Holy cannoli — the lector has a spectacular accent. We want him to do our voice-mail message. Also, he just said “Here Endeth the Second Lesson.”

2:59 p.m.: Everyone is standing again, singing “Rock of Ages.” They’re not as confident with the tune on this one. Bloomberg is up next. We hope they got him a footstool to stand on.

3:01 p.m.: Bloomberg compares Astor to his mom: “She, like my mother, saw history from a perspective that few of us can share,” he said. “For them the great war was World War I.” He even cracks a joke! “They were around before Ed Koch and David Dinkins were in knee pants.” What are knee pants?

3:03 p.m.: Bloomberg reads a poem by Astor, from a children’s book: Love is an apple, round and firm / without a blemish or a worm. Bite into it and you will find / you’ve found your heart, and lost your mind. We like that. Then Bloomberg says that she really was in love with an apple – the Big One. Aw.

3:05 p.m. Bloomberg just threw us for a loop — we thought he was going for a joke, but then he took us by surprise. “There’s a Yiddish saying that our mitzvahs, or good deeds, are the clothing of our soul,” he said. “In more ways than one, Mrs. Astor was always the best-dressed woman in New York.” Oh dear, we just got choked up. Seriously.

3:10 p.m.: Astor’s son Anthony Marshall speaks. His accent isn’t bad either. He’s reading a statement of faith from Astor, written several years ago. “I want to leave trees rustling with my thoughts, trees that have heard me speaking to them when we were alone together,” she wrote, apparently something of an amateur poet. “I want the tears that I have shed for the sake of high love to come again as dew. I want to leave richer for having known me.” At the end of the speech, her son adds: “Yes, New York and her many friends have lost a wonderful person.” After a moment of choked silence, he adds: “But I have lost my mother.”

3:17 p.m.: It’s homily time. For you Jews, that’s the part where the priest talks for a long time about the events of the day, and what men 2,000 years ago had to say about them. This priest’s voice is truly amazing. It’s what God sounds like in movies. These Episcopalians are on to something.

3:20 p.m.: Oh, man, the priest just used the word “glitterati.” And he just told a story about a “large African-American janitor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art” who once gave Astor a hug. “And by God did she return that embrace!” he proclaimed. By God, indeed.

3:25 p.m.: The priest, Andrew C. Mead, doesn’t want to reveal what she discussed during their private, spiritual conversations. But, he says, “her assessments of people and situations were often seasons with a fair amount of salt.” Oh, church snap!

3:30 p.m.: Mmm. It’s Lord’s Prayer time. We wish we were there, to see if any of the politicians couldn’t make it all the way through.

3:35 p.m.: They’re singing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” Apparently this was one of Astor’s favorites. We’re beginning to see why Jews, and not Episcopalians, run Broadway.

3:40 p.m.: Oh no. Bagpipes.

3:47 p.m.: Okay, everyone is filing out to the upbeat tune of Widor’s Toccata. It’s over. At barely more than an hour, it was tasteful, touching, and a little bit goofy. We especially liked that she was carried out to the tune of “Amazing Grace.” Leave it to Mrs. Astor to have a high Wasp funeral but go out with a tune that everybody loves. As always, a class act.

Live-Blogging Mrs. Astor’s Funeral