Walking through the valley of shadows, one might find that many of those shadows are no longer shades or reflections, but echoes.
Unless you live on a remote island with a volleyball as your companion, those around you, in your circle are part of you, and you, them. Touching that green square on the phone that seems so familiar to me are the communications from loved ones that are no longer here.
Living on some nebulous cloud are the actual voices of some of those same people who no longer can speak.
I think the term audiophile might be archaic to many of you who read my blog. Years ago, a wall of my house was dedicated to devices that played vinyl, reel to reel tape, and of course, cassette and even 8 track. If you have never had the pleasure of slapping a cartridge in an-dash 8 track machine, you have missed something.
Digging through the closet of mysteries, I found several old reels of tapes that have gathered dust for decades. Spending an inordinate amount of time getting one of the early machines to whirl the reels back and forth, I found the reverberations of my family’s voices who are long gone. A similar thing happened when transferring old VHS tapes to DVD.
Viewing the large flat screen through prisms of tears, those loved ones spring to life once again. Your heart aches as their memories burst through the waves of emotions that you thought you finally put to bed. An emotional dam breaks as a tsunami of feelings you shared, knock you over. The pain you felt at their passing is now very real again.
You hear them talk and begin to count how many of them are no longer there. How many of them have returned from whence they came.
As you listen, watch, or yes, read the text messages; somewhere in the back of your mind, a virtual calendar pops up, and the years re-wind.
‘When was it? Five, ten, twenty years, no longer than that, I was standing there, giving the eulogy. I agonized for days writing that thing. I practiced it, so I would not look the fool in front of hundreds of well-wishers.’
So many rainy days spent standing under a green awning as the cadaver like funeral home employee stands in the shadows while family and friends weep, or prattle on about how kind, good, etc. that the person was.
The smell of death lingers amongst the overpowering perfume of the flowers sent by loved ones; to adorn the pile of dirt that will one day in the not too distant future settle back into the recesses of the earth.
Children most probably experience this with their grandparents first, unlike me, who first went through this when a classmate in third grade, died from cancer. My friend that shared so many secrets, so much laughter, was gone. I now wept while holding the hand of a parent. It rained then too.
Her blond curly hair was replaced by a knitted cap, and the pink ribbon that she used to wear was no place to be found.
I often wondered if God sent the rain to cry along with you, to let you know that he had not forgotten you, or your loved one.
After the last line of Amazing Grace is sung, the crowd disperses. You stand there and look at the coffin with the small white flowers on top of it. Cars start; some people chat while making plans for lunch or heading to someplace for a reception. Some return to work or some other place as they are busy.
You’re not there, you’re with that person in the box. You want that one last hug, a smile of reassurance, or to feel the warmth of them. That sense of humor that kept you laughing so hard that you thought you might pee yourself.
‘Wait, we can’t do this without them!’
Employees of the cemetery wait patiently for the last one to leave, so they can work in the shadows.
‘This is it, this is really it.’
Reality sets in as you force yourself to turn, to face away from that box, those flowers, and the empty chairs under the makeshift pavilion.
You’re torn, you don’t want to face the reality that it is over. The rest of the family is waiting for you at the large sedan that will take you to the function. Their figures are blurred and smeared as you slowly put one foot in front of the other like you have done your whole life, ever since that person in the box taught you to walk or tie your shoes. You know, the one that told you to wear clean underwear just in case. Once there, in some fellowship hall, there will be more crying and hugging and whispers by those who start the sentence with ‘I heard.’
Those in charge of the sponsored event will paste on a face that they wear on Sunday as they direct you to a line and give you instructions. Casseroles that were prepared for this event came out of the freezer and now adorn a long table with different crock pots and other warming devices. People you don’t even know or maybe met years ago will act like your best friend to be seen with you. Then they will tell you about how it was when their great aunt Martha passed after a long bout with something or other. You try and act as if you care, but the pain of your loss is genuine and it is hard to appreciate their loss.
The silence keeps me up at night. Even now, I can hear them all calling to me.
‘Stop grieving, it is all ok. I am no longer in pain. I sent you those flowers in your garden, I can do that now. Those clouds you saw turning into animals, that was me telling you those stories you used to love. Those waves crashing on the rocks…yeah, I sent them to you too. I know how much you love that sound. When you are ready, I will tell you another story, just lay down on a blanket in the grass and watch, I have been working on some great stories for you.’
Do you delete the text messages, erase the tapes, and put the photos away in a box? What about those voice mails telling you to call them when you get this.
“Hey, I got your message!”
Much Love -TW