Andrew waited in his beautiful silver casket for his friends to come see him. We stood close to the casket. From time to time I would go closer to him so that I could rest my hand on him. I wanted to touch him. It comforted me. When I was touching him I felt closer to him, even though I knew he wasn’t in there. So many friends came to see him. So many teenagers with that lost look in their eyes. I wondered if they were going to be able to, survive this grief. I watched as they dropped sentimental trinkets in his casket in hopes that this somehow would connect them to him throughout the eternities, or the beyond and for some the unknown. I think there was some reassurance that maybe if they were connected there that he would remain here with them also. I tried to give them comfort. I am not sure if I did any good.
We stood there greeting hundreds of people. It felt like a wedding line, without the joy. They were all so sad. I felt the compulsion to comfort them. Greg and I both did. Person after sad person stopped in front of each of us, with their head tilted and eyes lowered. We would reach out and hug them and let them know “It’ll be ok.” By the end of the night, I was exhausted. We both were.
Greg’s irreverent brother, Jeff, and his family, took us to Olive Garden after the viewing. Jeff is one of those people that if you saw in a dark alley you would be torn between praying to him because he looks like Jesus or running because he looks like Charles Manson. Should it worry me that 1 person can look like 2 such completely different people? However, this is something Jeff is well aware of, and jokes relentlessly about it. It felt so good to laugh. Mourning people aren’t allowed to laugh. Even better it felt good to forget, for just a few moments, who we were. Forget that we were the ones burying our son in the morning.
The morning came. We woke up late. How is this possible when we weren’t really sleeping? We scrambled to get dressed and get to the church. I hadn’t even prepared my talk for the funeral yet. I was also wondering why I thought I had to speak at the funeral anyway. No one would expect that from me. Again, I think speaking at the funeral was a way for me to prove to the world that I am stronger than this. I had control of this. I was dreading another viewing. I didn’t know if I had the mental capacity to comfort any more people.
We arrive at the church and assume our positions in the viewing line. People were already there to see us. The small room was filled to capacity. It was so hot that I could hardly breathe. It was time for the family prayer. Isn’t there an occupancy limit on this room? I wanted the doors to open and move on to the funeral. I wasn’t prepared for what had to happen next.
It was time to close the casket for the last time. I would never again see the boy, that wasn’t really there, but really in heaven. I was really saying goodbye. I couldn’t lay my hand on his chest to feel closer to him. As they closed the lid I remained silent, but inside I was screaming, “STOP!” I wanted to claw at the casket and not let anyone near it. I wanted to stay in this moment forever. I wanted to stay standing there with the casket open, my hand resting on Andrew’s chest, able to look at him whenever I wanted. I felt my very sole rip out of my body as the lid closed for the last time. I was definitely not prepared for this, and I sobbed as we left the small room to enter the chapel for the funeral.