I went to a funeral today. It was very sad. Mrs. E had been at our school for 22 years. She was a beloved teacher who not only taught A last year, but also my sister and brother-in-law who are in their twenties. I sat in the pew and tried not to cry. I was honestly sad for her family and the staff and all of her students. I think the tears though brought me back to Jeanne and Mike's funeral. The opening hymn was the same. The incense brought me back. I tried to focus on the mass but kept on finding myself reliving sights in my mind from the funeral....
...It was the Thursday after the accident. The church was packed. Cars had to park in side streets and police were called to deal with the traffic. Local TV crews parked across the street. I drove E and M to their parents funeral. K went to the church early with the boys because he was a pall bearer and doing the second reading. We were amazed by the crowds as we pulled into our reserved space. It was a bit overwhelming. I can only imagine what it was like for the girls. The kept their composure until the coffins were brought in. M leaned into me and started sobbing. They profoundness of our loss was so clear seeing the two coffins. The tears sprang into my eyes as a watched my stoic, strong husband carry in Jeanne with tears streaming down his face. We followed the coffins in and found our places in the pew at the front of the church. K did a great job on his reading. I remember the sermon being way too long. D actually had to go to the bathroom halfway through and I was relieved to have to walk him to the bathroom. I remembered spying some familiar faces. A had a broken arm at the time and was picking at it and scratching throughout the mass. I remember feeling a little lightheaded and my legs shaking remembering that I really hadn't eaten anything for breakfast.
It was time for our eulogy. The four of us sisters walked up to the podium. CA, C and I prepared something and S read a letter from E. According to A, our in-house critic, CA was the funniest, C was the most "holy" and I made everyone cry. I have to say, I felt the most at peace during those moments. I could stand up there and let everyone know how I felt, speaking honestly to the girls, my parents, Mike's family and our friends. I actually carry a copy of the eulogy in my purse and still look at it every once in a while to remember the promises and words of love we had for each other.
I also remember walking up the aisle out of church holding L and following the caskets. People kept trying to offer condolences and get my attention. I remember my old boss sobbing on my shoulder and telling me how proud he was us C and I. I almost felt like I was comforting him as I struggled to hold L as he clung to me. I just wanted to see the coffins go back in the hearses. Just when I really thought I couldn't take it, my soccer coach from college slid up next to me and physically held me up. I'll never forget it. He knew not to say anything and just be there for me in that way.
We finally made our way to the reception in the school gym. The first people I saw were my friends from the neighborhood. It was good to see them. Then I found my friends from book club and I could finally sit and unload. We have all been friends for 15 years and have shared, cried and laughed together with such intimacy. I needed them like never before. They got me to sit, eat, and just talk without needing to comfort or explain. I could just be for a moment.
We had a private burial at the cemetery for just family. I sat trying to focus on what the priest was saying but it was an almost out of body experience. When it was time to leave I just couldn't. I couldn't leave her. I didn't like the idea of leaving her by herself. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I still hurts so much. Finally, my dad and K helped me to the car. It was over. Little did I know it had only just begun.
I drive by the cemetery at least 4 times a day. I always mentally say hi to them. Some days the tears need to be held back, but on most days it just is...not sad, not comforting, just the reality. On Sunday for Mother's day I brought E to see her mom and bring flowers (M just isn't ready yet to go there). I think about the accident and the funeral every day. Sometimes it's just fleeting moments. Today was just one of those days in which it all came rushing back. Maybe it was the visit to the cemetery. Maybe it was Mother's day. Maybe it was sitting through the funeral mass. Whatever it was, I found myself a little overwhelmed today. Fragile. On edge. Raw. I am still in disbelief that it happened. I miss Jeanne.