This is the seventh post in this series. Please see The Preface for further explanation.
They came late at night, the night before the funeral. Uncle Mark (my dad's brother), Aunt Mary Lynn (my dad's sister), and Aunt Dorothy (Mark's wife) arrived in the nick of time. It had been an excruciating day with emergencies, big and little. The visitation at the funeral home had been lovely, packed with family and friends, but it was also exhausting. I had finally spent time alone with my husband, and I wept freely at my mother's side. But with the tears shed, all the adrenaline finally wore out.
They came to my parents' door, those marvelous three, just as I began to feel the full debt I owed to sleep.
"Go to bed! Don't worry about a thing! We've got it all covered." Aunt Dorothy was set in her mind and smiled as she gestured up the stairs, "Now get some sleep!"
So off to bed. I obeyed and slipped quietly into my old room, into my ancient bed that was handed down from family for over a century and a half. I wondered how many other mourners the bed had held, how many births, how many deaths. Then I drifted off into slumber punctuated by fractured dreams.
The morning came easily. I was up early without any alarm blaring staccato beeps. It had only been four hours, but it seemed to be enough. I dressed methodically, but without fussing.
Someone had brought donuts. I chomped on one while sipping my coffee. No cream. No sugar. Just strong, hot coffee.
Family arrived. Friends arrived. At last, Antonio walked through the door with our four children. Seeing them and hugging them made my heart lighter.
There was sitting and talking. Then someone said the limos had arrived.
People filed out. Antonio took the kids into the limousine closest to the house, but I didn't see it. Something had happened that needed my attention, and I missed where they had gone. As I stood there on the driveway, my eyes frantically skimmed the faces in the different cars, trying to find them. Then a voice called out that the limos were full.
Dad was confused as he stood by a passenger door. He stammered that it was impossible that I had no way to get to the funeral.
Then Uncle Mark shouted, "I've got Emily! Don't worry! She's coming with us in the Mercedes!"
My heart leaped! Yes! It was perfect! I thought of the funerals of my grandparents, and how the family grieved with a definite nod to our ancestors' Irish aplomb. I knew my mother would have been delighted to know that I was with my two aunts and my uncle . . . in the Mercedes.
I sat in the back behind Uncle Mark, and Aunt Mary Lynn slipped in the seat beside me. Just as Aunt Dorothy took shot gun, I blurted out like a little kid, "I'm so glad I'm riding with you! Y'all know how to do funerals!"
My aunts looked at each other, and Aunt Mary Lynn winked, "I know, dear, isn't it somethin'? Are we sick or what?" Then laughter burst out all around. It wasn't a funeral anymore. This, y'all, was a wake!
There was laughing and venting; serious words and silliness. There were silent tears and funny jokes. There were plans to meet again soon during better times.
There was no judgment. There was just freedom. Freedom to be angry, to be sad, to be happy, or whatever emotion came at whatever moment. There were no filters for perfect words, and sometimes things were said in a colorful manner. But my aunts and my uncle understood and their love covered everything. They were there for me no matter what.
At the end of the funeral and burial, at the church fellowship hall eating some bits of brisket, it became clear that it was simply time for me to go. There was nothing more to be done.
So with Antonio's blessing, Uncle Mark, Aunt Dorothy, and Aunt Mary Lynn walked me back to the Mercedes. They would not break up the posse, and I loved them all the more for it.
They drove through the nearest Carl's Jr. I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, and the largest chocolate shake the restaurant had. Then they drove to the hotel's front.
"This is where we'll leave you." Uncle Mark spoke with kindness.
I was relieved, "That's perfect. I want to be alone. I need to be."
"We know." My aunts agreed. They had all buried their parents, and they did indeed know.
Uncle Mark opened the car door with chivalrous grandeur and a cunning smile.
I somehow gracefully exited, clutching my purse and the fast food bag with the gigantic chocolate shake. Away I left for my hotel room, for thoughtless silence and simple solace with no phones and no e-mails. Just peace with the irreverent slurping of a chocolate milkshake.
©Emily Woodham 2009-2015