Don't forget to write it down.
There's something quite unreal about getting a phone call telling you that a person is dead. Especially if you weren't expecting it. The deaths of terminally ill people, old people, even those who go to the hospital for minor surgery and die from complications don't elicit the same stomach punch of breathless disbelief as the deaths of people who consider life to be a daily adventure. You hear the words and then they just sort of hang out there in the air for a moment before your mind is able to read and comprehend the meaning. One minute he's there...and the next he's not.
A friend of ours died last week. I should be clear and say that, had I not married Mr. Half, I probably wouldn't know RS at all. Because I did marry him and because a tight network of high school buddies (including Mr. Half's two younger brothers) has stayed close since elementary school, I was lucky enough to have known RS for about 21 years. Either way, RS died on Sunday after slipping into a diabetic coma, and because he was alone when it happened, he could not be saved. It was two days before he was found. It was, to say the least, a huge shock. RS was the life of every party.
RS had a huge group of friends and many of them came from out of state and one even rerouted her flight on the way back from Venezuela to be there. My brother-in-law left early from an architect's convention in Los Angeles in order to arrive at D/FW at midnight before the 10 a.m. burial. Eight of the friends, including my two brothers-in-law, served as pallbearers and it was an especially emotional moment to watch as the same guys with whom RS had ridden bikes (as kids) through the neighborhood or those with whom he competed for First Chair trumpet in middle school band struggled under the weight their friend's casket as they brought it to its final resting place.
The service itself was long and...somewhat difficult. Despite an eventful dating life, RS was not married and had no kids, so the planning of the service fell to his older siblings and elderly parents. With the exception of a sister, a childhood friend and three co-workers who spoke eloquently on his behalf, the rest of the service seemed to address a person other than the friend we knew. The music, the words, the rather protracted and vociferous assumptions regarding his religious faith on behalf of the older brother seemed to ring falsely. Surely RS would never have wanted this awful, awful singer to punctuate his funeral with no less than four solos? The RS we knew would never have ordered this.
The thing is, people express informally what they want or don't want all the time. They go to a wedding and hear a song and say to a friend, "Dear God, that's hideous. I'll never use that at my wedding! You attend a funeral and you make a mental note to yourself NOT to be buried on a hot Texas afternoon. In the movie, "Hi-Fidelity", John Cusack's character, Rob Gordon, makes just such an announcement while attending a funeral and considers Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" as something he'd like played at his service. Of course, you get to plan the wedding yourself, but the funeral is unfortunately--unless you've got intentions to leave the planet soon-- the domain of those left behind...and not necessarily the people who know you the best. And what 45 year old with plenty of living to do sits down and writes out a funeral program? Clearly our friend did not.
So I'm saying it here and now. If I die...you know....before I expect to and Mr. Half and the boys are all still here?? They get to decide. (Okay...let my sisters pick the clothes I'm wearing because I'm sure not leaving that up to someone without a uterus) They know what I want and what I don't and I'm writing it all down just to make sure. I don't want someone else's expression of what looks or sounds good or right or proper to invade my final hurrah...whenever that is. No pontificating. No music requests to suit personal tastes (use them at your own service). Fourteen drawn out verses of the same old hymn won't change the fact that I'm dead or the person I was prior to dying. No making me sound better or nicer or holier than I am...or was. I don't want my friends walking out afterward as we did yesterday asking ourselves if perhaps the brother wasn't eulogizing another person...and not RS. There...I feel better now...sort of.
And can I just say that the sanctity of a funeral procession is no longer something ordinary citizens give a crap about?? Despite the police escort and the stretch limo for family and the long line of cars with lights on, we had at least two cars CUT IN on the funeral procession. One sped up next to our line of cars, cut in front of us and rode along until his exit came up and the other cut in front of us and used the procession to expedite her trip to the street of her choosing, rather than pulling over alike everyone else. Honking? It does nothing to dissuade these losers. I'm continually astounded at the erosion of our society.
I'm ready for something to happen that will give me a deeply satisfying belly laugh. I want to lose my breath over something hilarious. And then I want to write about it. Keep your fingers crossed.