Let’s break it down by numbers, shall we?*
- Number of miles I’ve driven in the past 36 hours: 208
- Times I’ve unexpectedly burst into tears in that time: 27
- Cups of coffee: 9
- College friends I’ve seen: 8
- Funerals I have attended: 1
*These are approximations only
It has been an emotional day, friends and readers. I drove up to Huron, Ohio after work and arrived 2 and a half hours later to see my dear college friend Jessie and her family, whom I was unfortunately only speaking to for the first time. Jessie was well composed, and yet very honest about what she was feeling and thinking. The cold, dreaded thoughts I thought about my mom, her body, where she was now — Jessie not only thought them too, she vocalized them.
Maybe I grieved wrong? Maybe you’re supposed to be able to say those almost unspeakable thoughts out loud and that’s how you get the demons out and free yourself from them?
Jessie’s dad’s funeral today was a lot different from the few others I have attended. People actually got up and spoke and shared memories about her dad, and they… they laughed. There were amusing anecdotes, loving stories and regaling jokes that you could tell were particular favorites of the teller shared at this service. Every one of them made me wish I had known Jessie’s father. He sounds like an amazing person.
What surprised me most is that Jessie herself spoke first, sharing a funny story about her dad making her change clothes before going to the mall with some friends when she was in school. She told it in a way that showed a lot about his character and his beliefs as a father. She admitted she and her dad butted heads, and Lord knows the same could be said for me and my dad, because I believe still that I take more of my personality from him than my mom.
And here I am doing something I’ve been trying all day not to — bringing this story back to myself, to my experience, to my loss. I don’t want to do that to Jessie. Her loss is not equal to my loss, nor is it unequal; they are incomparable. I cannot pretend to know exactly how she feels this week. All I can do is remember how I DID feel and try to remember what small things brought me comfort at that time. I was comforted by hand-written letters from the sincerest of well-wishers. I was comforted by kind words from those I rarely spoke to, the ones that came out of the blue and yet were completely on point. I was comforted by hugs, honest looks of consolation. I was comforted by spending time with the members of my family I had left.
I wish all these things onto Jessie and her family. I found that, even though I have kind of been in a similar boat, I still didn’t know what to say to her mom or her brothers. I can’t imagine how those who have not felt the loss of a loved one feel when they walk up to someone who has. The truth is, there are no words. There aren’t any words that will miraculously bring that special person back, you can’t say anything to change what happened or how they feel. I guess all you can do is let them talk. If they don’t want to talk, and I know all about not wanting to talk, or rather being unable to, check back later. Don’t give up on them, I suppose.
Jessie and her youngest brother recorded a song together a couple nights before the funeral. Her brother played guitar, and she sang “Hallelujah,” that Leonard Cohen song, better known for the Jeff Buckley version popularized by the movie “Shrek.” When I preface it like that, it sounds silly to admit this, but I completely lost it when I heard it today at the service. It was so beautiful. I heard Jessie sing for the first time last year and was floored. This was no different. I seriously want a CD of her singing.
She took the time to make that recording and write something to say about her father at his funeral. All I did for my mom was sit there in front of a casket while a preacher spoke. And I barely recall it. Was I so motionless, so numb, that I could do nothing to honor my mom that day? On that note, it helps if you know Jessie; she won’t sit down for two seconds if there is something constructive to be done. And I’m pretty sure she ate nothing but a granola bar yesterday, and that was while getting her hair done.
I came to see her last night, and stayed with a family friend of hers. This morning, with a couple girls we both knew from college, we went to the service together. I just wanted to sit with her and hug her the whole time. She was so strong.
But it’s in the weeks to come that she might need a hug, a hand-written note, some kind words and some honest looks. I am still in shock that this has even happened. Who knows what that means she’s feeling. No one knows but her.
I drove home alone today, driving down a two-lane highway listening to oldies music. It was a beautiful day for a drive, and a great opportunity to spend some time with my thoughts. My thoughts are of Jessie and her family today. My thoughts are of what she and her friendship mean to me. It was a wonderful drive and I know it’s hard for Jessie to find anything enjoyable right now. I am hoping that time comes, and when it does, she feels the full magnitude of it all, and feels her dad’s presence.