I feel bad for the poor people at the Funeral Home. Did we think that they had nothing better to do than bring my son out of the cooler every time we wanted to see him? Why did we want to keep seeing him? Was it to reassure us that this was indeed a reality? Was it to see how bad (or good) he looked from the accident? Did I think he needed me there? Or did I need him? Whatever the reason we went to visit him every day that week. He was so puffy, but I could still see my beautiful boy. That slight smile, rested on his face. I was sure that at any given moment, his eyes were going to pop open, and he was going to laugh that deep belly laugh, as he did every time he played a practical joke. It was a bad joke, but I would have forgiven him. I touched his face and hands so softly. I kissed his forehead. I don’t think I had touched him that way since he was a baby. It felt so similar and so different, all in the same moment.
The day came to dress Andrew for the viewing. Church clothes were a given. But I knew that Andrew would want his football jersey. Most people would expect that for the star quarterback, or the MVP. But what was so humorous is that Andrew was probably the worst player on the team. Andrew probably played 20 seconds the entire season, and that was only when there was no chance of him affecting the outcome of the game. And yet, he was an important member of the team. I am not sure if it was more important to him, or his teammates. He was Snowball. He was the short, stocky, uncoordinated kid, with bleach white hair that cheered for everyone. When he would go on the field the teammates would chant “Snowball” Snowball”. I knew that this would be the most fitting attire for Andrew. I think this is when he felt most “alive.”
I had never dressed anyone that didn’t help by putting his or her arms and legs in. I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been told that it could be a spiritual experience. Others said that it is horrible and let the Funeral workers do it. We decided to dress Andrew anyway. Greg and I asked Isaac & Chris to come help because we thought we might need their physical strength. Jessica also wanted to come. We started to dress him timidly, as if we were afraid that he would break. Chris and Isaac were carefully lifting and moving Andrew while we slid on his underwear and pants. Then we had to use a little more strength as we struggled. The fight to get his clothes on seemed to get harder & harder. We started to laugh. Is this wrong? We couldn’t help it. We were struggling so much and we realized that Andrew was having a last laugh at our expense. It was as if he was purposely fighting us while we dressed him. We could feel his laughter fill the room. He was there, and as usual he was laughing. Then the dress shirt, the tie, the socks, and no shoes because they wouldn’t fit. Lastly, the football jersey. One would think that a shirt that is made to cover huge pads would slip right on. We fought and fought. Finally, we asked for some scissors and sliced the back of the jersey all the way up to the neck. We pulled it up one arm, over his head, and forced it on the other arm. We tucked the flaps under his torso. It looked great from the front. I took the gel and hairspray and spiked his hair, as he always did. He was ready.
Once again I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. Greg asked Jessica if she wanted to give her brother a kiss. I guess Andrew’s joking spirit got the best of Greg, because just as she leaned down to kiss Andrew, Greg poked his fingers into her ribs and yelled. Jessica came unglued. She screamed, cried, and pounded he fists on Greg’s chest. “That wasn’t funny!” she screamed. Greg laughed and said, “Andrew thought it was.” I do not think Jessica has forgiven Greg or Andrew for that one.
I looked back as we left Andrew. He looked so proud, as he did every game day, as he went to school in that Blue & White Dixie jersey. Dixie Pride!