Monday was the memorial service for my friend Peter.
Several people mentioned to me the comfort they found in being able to celebrate life. I don’t know about that. I’m not sure that grieving in a group is easier. I had a really tough time at the service. There were so many things I wanted to say, to pay tribute to Peter and I couldn’t do it. I did not have it in me to share my grief outside. Did it help to see how many others were likewise grieving for Pete? Not really. Grief is very internal for me. I knew I was grieving and no, it didn’t help. I could barely watch the slideshow because it made me so sad. I eventually had to force myself to just watch it straight through because I doubted I would have another opportunity. I was just standing still in the middle of a crowd, crying. When it was over, I made my way through the sea of bodies to the exit and got outside. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like the room was closing in on me and I needed to escape. As I passed through the people milling about I caught snatches of conversations and heard snippets of laughter. While I understand, intellectually, that people just make conversation and it isn’t out of the ordinary, it hurt me. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to laugh, to talk about my new job or my new house, or anything. I just wanted to be sad and the 200 people surrounding me weren’t helping me do that nor making it any easier.
But, then I paused, outside, and took a deep breath. Within seconds, my friend Frodo came after me. He noticed my escape and he followed. He hugged me and I could tell that he felt it, too. It was hard and I was not alone in my grief, no matter how it felt inside. Yes, people chat and laugh but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting, too. The people that came, the people that knew him, they understood. Frodo showed me that because it was clear he could see inside me to my grief–it helped me realize that I wasn’t hurting inside as much as I thought, my grief showed. Frodo helped.
It was so hard that day. But, I think the hardest part was the next day. I kept thinking as the service wound down, “what now?” It didn’t seem real that I would get up the next day and go to work and it would just be another Tuesday. How is it possible that it could be a regular day? Peter is gone. Forever. There is nothing regular, nothing normal, nothing real about that. It is senseless and painful and how is it possible that things just keep moving forward?
Then, this morning I was walking down the hall at work. We have these quotes all over our walls. I love them. I’ve read every single one dozens of times over and I still read them as I pass, but they don’t carry the impact they did the first days of starting here. Now, I’ve become numb. Often, I see them without really seeing them. The one I pass the most, the one I’ve read the most often, hangs outside my library, down the hall. I pass it multiple times every day.
Just today, I looked at it and it stopped me in my tracks. Literally.
I stood there, staring at it, then I did a total about-face and went back into the library to grab my phone and take a picture.
That is how I’ve been feeling all week, then Robert Frost helped me out. Life does go on. I get that, really, I do. It is the hardest part of this whole thing. How did Peter choose to stop allowing life to go on? It hurts, but it does go on, march forward, inevitably. We can’t slow it and we can’t stop it. Even when it hurts, we just have to ride out the tide until it gets better. And the best part is that it will get better. It always does.
Lastly, I want to mention something that struck me on Monday. It was absolutely gorgeous, weather-wise. As I was going about my day I thought to myself, “what a beautiful day”. Then I felt bad for thinking that on the day of Peter’s memorial service. And suddenly, I had a flash. There was an episode of Friends, where they all attended the funeral of Ross and Monica’s grandmother. Phoebe said, “what a great day” or something. And they all looked at her in shock that she’d say that at a funeral. Then she quickly corrected that she was talking about the weather. It made me smile that I experienced a similar story, even if it was only in my own head.
Looking back, I think it was gorgeous that day on purpose. The weather is changing toward blustery fall days and it seems like the heavens took it upon themselves to grace us with one last beautiful day. Like they knew that those of us who were hurting would need something beautiful to look to, something awesome to enjoy. It helped me get through, so I believe that was the intent.
Hey, Pete? Can you name the 20 U.S. Presidents who don’t have an “O” in their last name?
Somewhere, wherever you are, I know you can and you’re ticking them off on your fingers–as I type this. I miss you my friend. Always will.