Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Part 3: The Services

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
I was very aware that I hadn't cried since the first night I got the news. I'd been more numb since then. And I did ok... until I saw the coffin.

The two days of services and visitation were difficult. I saw old friends and colleagues, members of her family that I knew... Lots of pictures of her. So much happened during those two days. Lots of things I can't write about. Some of which were extremely intense. But during those days I never once wanted to be anywhere else.

One of the first people I thought of when my friend died, was her 10 year old niece. My friend adored her and thought of her as if she were her own daughter. I knew that, during this time, my friend would have wanted to be sure she didn't get lost in the shuffle.

I wanted to get her niece something to hold onto. Something to hug. I bought her a medium sized, really soft, white teddy bear. I'd wanted to get her an angel bear, one with wings, but hadn't been able to find one I liked in the short time I had to look. My friend's niece had chosen not to come to the funeral because it was too upsetting for her, so I gave the bear and card to her parents to bring home to her, and told them I'd left the card open in case they wanted to read it first.

When her mother returned for the evening service, she told me her daughter had disappeared with the bear to another part of the house and had fallen apart crying and hugging it for a long time. She told me this was good because she hadn't really cried yet and had been holding everything in. I told her I was glad and sorry that I'd caused her daughter to fall apart! -And I was really glad, and also sorry. I remember 10 years old very well. I hope she's ok. She's a great kid and she has two great parents.

The service was performed by the minister who married my friend and her husband. She'd become good friends with them over the years and was a regular at their annual parties. The day of the service, she was sick with the flu or some kind of "bug" and someone told me that she'd passed out on a plane the day before. But she was going to do the service no matter what. -And she did. And, not surprisingly, she did a beautiful job.

It struck me while watching her speak, (because even though I knew this already, it didn't really sink in until then) that although we'd all known her informally for years, the last time she had spoken to this group in an "official" capacity was on my friend's wedding day. A happy beginning where everything was new and everybody was celebrating their fairytale love. And now, she was back talking to this same group of people about the same couple and their love for one another, but this time one of them was dead and lying in a (closed) coffin behind her. I couldn't imagine what it was like to be in her position. She did really well.

On the lighter side, there were some interesting things to note:

1) Despite my informing the funeral home about the glitch on their website, twice, it hadn't been fixed and a couple of people did get lost, (One of whom had tried walking from the train station in 15 degree weather!) so on my last day there I troubleshot the problem for them. Going to a funeral home is upsetting enough. Not being able to find it is just cruel.

2) My friend's husband, her sister, and a very close friend of hers, all reported supernatural occurrences in the days since she'd died. -Not like my "talking to her" while I was making her website, (which could have been just as much my active imagination as anything else) but electrical type stuff and flashing orbs of light. Also scents that people noticed as if she'd just passed by them. They believe it was her.

3) Several people commented that funeral homes could make a lot more money if they had a bar. Even the woman at the front desk of my hotel asked me (three times!) if I wanted a drink before heading to the funeral home.

4) I have to say that at a time when emotions are so high and everyone is so fragile, it is a bit of an amusing distraction to see little politics and family dramas play out. Those rare moments when someone said something inappropriate under their breath relaxed me (oddly enough) and snapped me out of the surreal world we were in from time to time. One example:

A conversation between a guest and "a woman from side A of the family" on the last day:
Who is that man?



He's [person from side B of the family].

He is?
He hasn't come up to me or said one word this entire time!

Well, you didn't know who he was. Maybe he didn't know you either?

Oh he knew who I was!
Next: Part 4



momof3gr8kids said...

The white bear for her niece was very nice and appropriate. You can't stop her from hurting; you can only try to soften the edges of the hurt.

I also think the conversation between woman and guest is funny. But then again, people are funny.

Nora Bee said...

I read all three parts of this story just now. What a couple of weeks! How nice that you could be there for her and her family. Take care of yourself!

MP said...

OH I am so so sorry for your loss!! I too lost a friend when he was 40 years old and I TOTALLY understand the types of emotions that you are going through as "the friend".. What did she die of? My friend has ALS and we had to watch him die for 3 years which was heartbreaking..but we knew it was coming, it was a very long mourning process.

Melissa said...

momof3gr8kids: The woman was actually very interesting to watch. I'd heard about her before, but had never actually met or seen her in her native habitat ;)

nora bee: Thanks for reading all of it :) I'm doing my best. I don't feel like I'm really there for her family much, but I'm trying to touch base with them at least twice a week. There are more events related to her passing that are coming up, so we're definitely in touch re: those things.

mp: This was relatively unexpected. This was hip surgery. Of course any surgery is risky, but beyond that, it was unexpected. She was doing well after her surgery and was moved to another hospital for rehab therapy on her hip, and while she was there she started to go downhill. The rest "I am not at liberty to discuss at this time." -Draw your own conclusions. (The further you choose to take those conclusions, the closer you'll probably be.)