Friday, August 10, 2012
Looking Back, Looking Forward
We didn’t ride in limos to the funeral. It never crossed my mind. I just hiked up my gray dress and climbed into my brother’s new pickup truck with Tim and Margaret by my side. Running late because our printer ran out of ink and I couldn’t get a clear copy of the eulogy I had written, we pulled into the church parking lot just a few minutes before the service started. Someone had used an orange cone to save a space for us.
“Oh crap,” I thought, “We forgot to have a visitation.” Following my mother’s service, many years ago, I regretted not providing a place for people to come together and talk about her and process her sudden death at age 46. I told myself I’d remember that for future reference. Except this was the future, and I’d forgotten. Darn. Why didn’t we think to open up the social hall of the church over the weekend for people to laugh and cry and “Why?” and “What if?” about a boy swept away in a creek? I realize now, that although we forgot to plan a formal opportunity to do so, pockets of people were in living rooms, cul de sacs, on phones, and even the aisles of the grocery store doing just that. Talking, wondering, processing.
I guess there was simply no time for thoughts of limos, visitation, or even putting a picture of Jack in the paper with his obituary (a regret of mine) because we were just in survival mode, plodding through the shitty hours, unable to slow things down or turn back time, much as we wanted to. Reeling at the short amount of time between letting a healthy boy go out to play in the rain on a Thursday, and somehow celebrating his short life on Monday. Getting through. Getting it done.
I also didn’t think of explaining to Margaret what goes on at a funeral, even though she’d never attended one before. “We’ll sing a few hymns, and then the pastors will say nice things about Jack. There will no body or coffin there. When we walk in and out, everyone will look at us. Afterward, Dad and I will be busy talking to people, but you can hang out in my office or outside with your friends if it seems like too much.” I didn’t think of having that conversation until much later. Grief books suggest such a conversation, but I didn't start reading those until after the funeral.
And a limo? Didn’t dawn on me until several months later. Limos are great ways to transport relatives, especially those from out of town, to a funeral or a cemetery so no one has to worry about driving or directions.
But we aren’t fancy people. In fact, I drove myself to my own wedding in a 1987 minivan, wearing shorts and a button front shirt to avoid messing up the veil affixed to my head. No hoopla. It was low key, limo-less, and I regretted that a teeny bit at the time.
But not for Jack’s funeral. I am now so glad we forgot! Because Margaret likes fashion, fun, and the good life, and someday that girl WILL have the chance to ride in a limo. To prom, to her wedding, to a fabulous movie premiere… somewhere. Somewhere other than her brother’s funeral.