Twenty-two years ago, my beloved friend Kevin was killed by a repeat drunk driver as he crossed a street on Labor Day weekend.
Kevin was 30 when he died. He was one of those larger than life people whom you can never truly describe well enough to do their personality justice. He was the life-of-the-party kind of guy, with a heart as big as his laugh. His death was devastating to everyone who loved him (which was basically anyone who knew him). He was that guy. Not a single day has gone by in these past 22 years when he hasn't found his way into my thoughts.
Just this morning, his equally beloved mother, Marilyn, was laid to rest next to him, and as illogical as it may sound, it was one of the most comforting things I have ever witnessed. Marilyn, 72, was one of those moms that you'd want as your favorite aunt. Meeting her was like walking into a hug. There's just no other way to describe knowing her.
At my baby shower, she sat with her daughter (my good friend) and it felt as though they had been part of my family for years. And they had. My mother often joked that Marilyn was the "fifth sister" (my mom is one of four girls), and like many special friends of the family that feel more like family than not, she held a very special place in my family's heart. My mother just adored her. As did I.
Today, as I sat in the church during her funeral mass, I looked around at her family--her husband of 52 years, her son, a dear friend, her two daughters. Grandchildren. Siblings and nieces and nephews and a lifetime of friends. Story after story of her hilarious antics (one involved throwing a cooked roast at her husband...don't ask...it's an absolute classic), and endless accounts of how her greatest loves were her family and helping others, and too many examples of each to name here.
As I watched my grieving friends, I could physically feel the pain that was etched on their faces. It reminded me of my father's funeral not yet two years ago. I closed my eyes during Ave Maria and a beautiful Communion Hymn called We Remember. As many of you may know, I am Jewish and so while some of the prayers and music were familiar, others were new to me. They were at once haunting and lovely and timeless.
Truth be told, I had not planned on attending today's mass or the funeral service that followed. In fact, after my husband and I attended Marilyn's wake last night, we actually went to the cemetery so that we could visit Kevin and in some way pay our respects to Marilyn, who would be laid to rest the next day (today).
I simply didn't think I could attend the funeral and watch another person I love, be lowered into the ground. Knowing that mother and son would soon be side by side made it even unbearable to imagine. Each time I tried to mentally imagine being there, the thought made me close my eyes and I found myself pushing it away as fast as I could. I could not bear the horrible irony of it. Between these thoughts and my grief over losing my dad, a burial service seemed completely out of the question. I didn't think I could handle it.
After Rob and I left the cemetery last night, I felt at peace with the decision, rationalizing that we all grieve in our own way, and that was that.
I woke up this morning a few minutes before 7:00 a.m. I could still hear my dad's voice in my dream telling me to go to the church today, to be there for a family I loved and a woman I adored. I heard him tell me"It's time" and I immediately knew that he wanted me to move past my daily agonizing over his own death. I can't explain how I understood this to be his intention, but I did.
And so today I attend a funeral for a dear friend. I was fully present and I experienced a celebration of a beautiful woman's life. And for the very first time since he died some 22 years ago, I knew that Kevin was no longer alone. This, yet another gift from my dad, who knew what his daughter needed at precisely the right moment.
Until Next Time,