...And now...a little peace...
I had forgotten how physically painful it is to be so sad. I've had four nights of fitful sleep full of leg cramps, chest pains, headaches and a spastic back. I've cried and sobbed for three days until I couldn't breathe and I just when I thought there couldn't possibly be any moisture left in my body, I found another reason to bust out the hysterics again.
But, the day we all dreaded came and while it was the longest day of my life, a sense of relief and peace has come over me now that it has come to a close. The ceremony honoring Pete was just that — honorable. We put together a slide show and posters with pictures and the obituary I wrote appeared in not only the newspaper, but on the programs, the guestbook and on a sign above the guestbook.
All five of Pete's remaining siblings and their spouses made the trip from all over to be there and while the good majority of us were blubbering basketcases, I felt a great sense of comfort surrounded by not only my family, but the people I didn't expect to see at the funeral that showed up.
The past couple of days, my Dad and I especially, have had several conversations about closure and spirits. I am incredibly haunted and, to be very honest, pretty fucked up by what I saw at the hospital Saturday night. It made mortality and the reality of the fragility of the human body shoot straight to the surface of my mind. But, as I walked towards the casket today, I saw that Pete didn't look like Pete anymore with make-up caked on his fallen features and his hair slicked back instead of perfectly parted and swooped to the side. Like my Dad described it, his spirit had already flown away. My Dad realized it Saturday night and it took a couple of extra days and a second view for it to set in for me. Our bodies are nothing more than containers for our souls, but we never quite come to grips with that until somebody close to us dies. It's a huge reminder that we should constantly be working on and developing our character rather than being consumed with bettering our outward appearance. And, it just drives home that age old affirmation (in my own words, of course): If somebody doesn't like you because of the way you look on the outside, then they can just go ahead and fuck off because they aren't worth your time anyway.
Because of this realization, I felt more at ease and in control of myself at the service today. I already had the closure of seeing his body sans soul, so I was more apt to accept that he was gone, but never forgotten. Of course, I say that, but here's the rundown:
- I read all the cards on the flowers before the ceremony...and I bawled.
- Members of the Marine Corps League saluted Pete while the Marines Hymn played...and I bawled.
- "In The Arms of The Angel" played...and I bawled.
- My cousin Jake, Pete's grandson, spoke and it was funny and touching...and I bawled.
- I bolstered some bravery and told a story to the crowd about a time when I did laundry over at Pete and Maryo's and in the midst of folding, Pete picked up a tiny pair of my thong underwear, which he later nicknamed "slingshots," on the end of his finger, held it up and said, "I can't believe she pays money for these!" Everybody laughed...and I didn't bawl!
- My cousin Gayle, Pete's daughter, spoke extremely eloquently about how he didn't have to become her Dad when she was 6-years-old, he chose to and instead of talking AT her, he spoke TO her and cared about what she had to say...and so much more that I wish I could remember word for word because it was so beautiful...and I BAWLED.
- Then there was a 21-gun salute and Taps...and I bawled.
- Then the Marines folded up the flag and presented it to my aunt...and I bawled.
Yeah, totally in control, right? The Chaplain was an extremely Baptisty sounding black man who was all, "Run...to Je-SUS!" and "Oooooh LORD!" and he was wonderful. But, what I was so impressed with was the military aspect of the service — Semper Fi and the brotherhood of the Marine Corps and the extremely significant importance of serving your country — it all just sort of makes you burst with pride. I felt extremely proud of my Pete today and extremely proud to be his family.
Afterwards, we headed to the house where we ate and chatted and made googly eyes at the cute babies my family produces and got to know Pete's sisters and brothers a bit. They told me I was beautiful and hugged me warmly and I saw just where my giving, strong and kind uncle came from.
I left there with a horrendous headache from my snot filled sinuses, however, I finally felt at peace with what happened. We're allowed to be sad when somebody dies, and while it may happen unexpectedly, it's a part of life that we simply must deal with. Pete's still around, just in a different sense. Now we have to concentrate solely on the living — my aunt — to try and make sure her wounds heal along with ours.
And, just as I had finally stopped crying for more than an hour in three days, I get back to my parents' house, pick up a sealed flower delivery from the porch, open it to find a bouquet of pink roses, read the card and burst into tears again because it's from my best friends — Kate, Sam and Lacey. Goddammit, you dicks. Just as I was calming down, you have to go and be more amazing than you've already been this week. How did I get so lucky to have you in my life? Thank you.
And, thank you to everybody else who took the time to say a kind word to me and my family these past few days. Now that you've seen that this cynical bitch does in fact have a soul, a softer side that I rarely wear on my sleeve and usually only reserve for the handful of my trusted people, I hope you don't run away screaming from this blog, never to return. My funny and bitchy bone will be back momentarily.
I'm over the hump now. I feel more at ease and able to remember my Uncle Pete fondly with less and less of the painful sadness attached. Now...a little peace...for all of us.