The Funeral Post
You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. Except, with the suit, I was a little damp inside.
I was nervous the night before. Nervous I would oversleep this funeral, like I did with Gary’s — almost 4 years earlier to the day. I can’t tell you how much I hated myself that day — 18 years old, missing the funeral of my best friend of 9 years. We weren’t as close his final years, but I know in time our friendship would have rekindled and lasted a lifetime. We had a bond not unlike brothers do.
I drove Kate to the church where we parked the car and made our way up to Becky and other friends. Tom was there. He had heard of John’s cancer recently after the rest of us found out. Not once after did he express any interest. But I thought I’d let him know of the events on Saturday and as it turns out, he was one of the pallbearers. I can’t say I, or many others for that matter, agreed with this. John spent the past few years with a bad taste in his mouth from Tom. But they played Farley & Spayde for a while back in high school.
I latched on to Becky making my way into the opened church. I stared down the center aisle nestled in the middle of magnificent architecture and cross-bearing pews. It seemed a mile long — a path to God himself. To John. Lying in his open casket, I could see the outline of his body.
Minutes passed, and I had to step away and smoke another cigarette. What hypocrites we are! But I didn’t have the strength at that moment to walk down there.
In took another 15 minutes to get myself together and just go for it. Not a tear has left my eye, at this moment.
I stared down the path, gripping Becky’s hand. Slowly, we began our descent. Eventually, we made it to his mother and her boyfriend, Gabe. We exchanged hugs and introductions. She gave us smiles and thoughts from John. She thanked me for being so supportive in his final days and so good to him throughout his life.
Next his brother-in-law and father greeted us. We shook hands. I glanced over at the body lying a few feet from me. “My god, they left his hat on.” I quickly looked back and finished my greetings with the men.
Becky was in front of me. I hid behind her and stared over her shoulder at this painted carcass before us. It looked like John. It was his body. But this wasn’t John. This is all that’s left of him.
And the dam would break.
Tears came flooding out of me like no tomorrow. My fingers, digging into Becky’s shoulders, as I felt her break down too. At that moment, there was nothing else. All of time had stood still and collected itself in that spot, for that moment, and everything else ceased to exist. It was the time. It was my time… with him.
Then I became conscious again and decided I should move out of the way from whoever was behind us. So we stepped aside and embraced ourselves in each other�s tears and sorrow and realizations of what tomorrow and forever more will be like. And it was our time. No one else’s.
I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to soil her shoulder any more so I took her arm and we walked back out of the church.
Dan Reilly was coming up the walkway to the doors with Stephanie. I tried to make a small joke but cut myself off short when I let go of another minute of uncontrollable sobbing. Before I was done, he patted my shoulder and walked away — letting me have my moment.
I sat with Kate. She had just been down the same path. When I calmed down I wanted to go one more time. One last time.
And so we did.
And this time, I wasn�t crying. I was accepting it. I stared at this over-tanned version of John’s body and just tried to enjoy this last minute with him.
Some friends spoke. I didn’t. But I cried when Dan Bower talked about reminiscing with John a few months back. I cried whenever he commented on the humor of John Newman that never ceased to amaze… everyone.
I was a pallbearer myself.
We made our way to the cemetery and took our stations again outside the hearse. Slowly and carefully we carried this outrageously heavy casket to the grave. The pastor said his prayer and we were each given a flower to place on the casket before we left. Family and friends all walked around greeting each other, hugging, kissing, and sharing memories.
We lost a special person. More special than ANYONE could ever imagine without meeting him. And all it took was one time and you knew… he was one of a kind.
One thing Dan Bower talked about was how John wasn’t one for religion but he was always questioning the universe. Constantly analyzing, re-analyzing, and over-analyzing the world around us. Our purposes, our fate, our missions.
It occurred to me recently that I don’t think anyone really knew John. He was always surprising us in many ways. In all the years I’ve known him, I was never able to put my finger on him. I believe the reason so many were touched by him and so many liked him, is because the moment you met him… you knew what he was about. He was all soul. The body that lies beneath our feet is not John. The body I cried over was not John. It wasn’t even close. John… is all around us. He is a part of us. He didn’t end. He’ll be with us forever. The shell of him is buried, but John… can never be buried.
And I’d like to say to Dan Bower and everyone else who’s listening:
John knows the answers, now. He knows them all.
And he’s loving it.