We entered the chapel. Overwhelmed has never been such an inadequate word as it is in this instance. Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, of people overflowed out of the church. More than 500 (June 25th update...I read in my journal that about 1000 people attended)people sat in rows, chairs, on the stage, stood on the sides, stood in the foyer, and waited on the lawn. The sight was incredible. I felt so much love for Andrew and our family. It wasn’t until I stood in front of the congregation to speak that I felt the magnitude of it all. I stood there, and looked out. I looked to the back and sitting in chairs, up on the stage, a sea of football jerseys. Dixie Pride was there for my boy that day. I could barely take it in. I cannot describe the pride and love I felt at that very moment.
Others spoke, I spoke, I am not sure what any of us said. We have an actual video that I keep thinking that I will get out to see if the words that came out of my mouth were even English. Again, one of those “not present” moments.
But what I do remember most…the song. A friend of the family sang a solo, “I Stand All Amazed.” It was a beautiful song…to most. I must explain. She has a very trained, opera-like, voice. And what may be beautiful to some, is just down right funny to three 10 – 14 year old teenage boys. So here we are, in the front row, on display, and it starts. First, the quiet shaking of stifled laughter. Then the snickering. Then the uncontrollable laughter. I am sure Andrew is laughing it up, as well. I am thinking, this is wrong…on so many levels. The boys are actually ducking behind the casket to be out of the eyeshot of the vocalist. I lean over to try to stop the madness. There is no use. So what do I do? I tell them, “Well, at least make it look like you are crying.” Why do I even care at this point what others think? And with that, Dallin (10) puts his arm on the casket, bows his head, and puts on quite the crying (laughing) show. I have to admit, I too was laughing, along with the first few rows that have caught on, by now. I wonder when I tell people this story if they too will think it is funny, or just terrible. But I just find it terribly funny.
The funeral was over. It was 2 hours long but it seemed to end as soon as it started. We followed the casket outside.
The football team was lined up along the sidewalk by the hearse.
Groups of teenagers and adults were huddled and sobbing. It was all so very surreal.
Andrew was loaded into the back of the hearse and we climbed into the limo.
In movies you see the families quiet or crying in the limo. Not our boys. They were so excited, rolling down the windows, waving at people, feeling so important. And rightfully so. We are important, especially on that day.
The graveside was nice. I felt awkward and didn’t know what I should be doing. Should I be the grateful host and be running around greeting everyone, thanking them for coming? Should I sit quietly in my seat, under the tent? Why is it so ingrained in me, to try to do what is expected or normal? This is not normal, so therefore they have not made the “How to act at you child’s graveside” manual.
It was time to release the dove, to meet up with the doves that have gone before. We were symbolically releasing Andrew to join his relatives in heaven. When we opened the box, the dove didn’t want to go. I don’t believe this was a parallel to Andrew, because I believe he was ready, and truthfully, already gone and working. As I said before, I think he hit the clouds running. But for whatever reason the dove wasn’t cooperating. So Dallin was grabbing the dove, and about squeezing it to death, trying to get it out of the box. We all started to panic thinking Dallin was going to kill this bird. So before we knew it, all of our hands were on this bird. Some of us were trying to save it, while others tried to release it. Finally, I am sure out of self-preservation, the dove took off. The others circled with him. And it was beautiful.
We said the prayer, and the ceremony was over. I felt awkward again. So I walked to the limo. I thought this part is over, on to the next thing. I was sure everyone wanted to get back to the church to eat, and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. Looking back, I wish we had lingered. I would have liked to stay with Andrew just a little longer. Watching Andrew get lowed into the ground probably would have had the same effect as the closing of the casket. So maybe it was the right thing to do. What is the right thing to do? My family followed me to the limo, and off we went. Leaving everyone there at the graveside. I don’t know why I keep thinking about weddings, but it reminds me of when the bride and groom drive away with everyone watching, wondering what their new life is going to be. This did feel like us leaving our old life at the cemetery, and a new unknown life was beginning.