Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The chapel that brings such comfort and familiarity on Sunday mornings can seem so foreign and impatient when you’re there to bid someone farewell. The pews are cold and unforgiving; the light through the stained-glass windows appears dull and dreary. Your normal front-row seat is now reserved for family, and the view from the back seems miles away. The only saving grace is that it’s nearly impossible to see the white-dressed casket before the altar through the teased hair of the woman in front of you. When you kneel to pray, she does not move, and you awkwardly search for a gap in which to place your folded hands. All around you are familiar faces and the embarrassed echoes of choked sniffles. You cross yourself and sit back, pulling the collection of tissues from your left pocket: right for used, left for clean.

You subtly glance around the filling chapel and try to overlook the mourners entering in pairs, the fragile women sobbing into damp Kleenexes, and the men feigning strength as they press tear-stained faces into their lapels. In another situation a world of bad news away, you’d turn your nose on all of them, scoffing at their codependency and silently patting yourself on the back for rising above it. On this day, however, you close your eyes and let your head fall back, hoping to hide the longing you feel for a strong arm around your shoulders and the presence of a familiar body warming the space beside you. You push the ache somewhere deep inside of you and open your eyes.

You’re surrounded by the well-known faces of coworkers, few of whom you’d venture to call friends. They are merely people you see everyday, people with whom you exchange polite hallway smiles and nervous bathroom laughter, people who call daily meetings and waste your precious time. That notion of time has become quite apparent of late. You didn’t have time to return your brother’s phone call, so you vow to speak to him tomorrow. You didn’t have time for a healthy breakfast, so you settle for hastily eaten fast food. You didn’t have time to iron the black trousers you planned to wear to the funeral, so you pull the loathed, gray, herringbone slacks from the back annals of your closet. You blink yourself back and realize that the service has begun, and all around you sniffles are keeping cadence while sighs harmonize with stretched rivulets of tears.

Before you know it, it’s over. You’re singing the closing hymn to the tune of Danny Boy, your tissues are saturated and stretched thin, and the pallbearers are carefully avoiding your eyes. Outside, the sun is shining and the earth seems joyful to know it will soon swallow a woman so good. You give the sad nods and the closed-lipped smiles; you receive the necessary hugs. You hold hands with a woman who looks as if she’s about to crumble, and together you watch the hearse pull out into traffic, red and blue lights heralding it on its way.

You slip out of the crowd as soon as you see an opening and walk the few feet back to your office. You close the door behind you, catch your breath, and fall into your big leather chair. You read the same sentence six times before you realize that you haven’t a clue what it says. So you stop pretending and rest your head in your hands, alone in your space and alone with your thoughts. And you think how wonderful it would be to go for ice cream.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

three recent posts?

i dont know what to DO with myself!