After yesterday, folks around these parts pretty much shut down. Our personal local news superseded all other, the biting wind and brilliant sun of a Michigan winter afternoon wiping away concern for anything else.
As the casket was raised to its new home 4 rows high and moved into the empty crypt, all therein gathered watched in silence. The scrape of plastic tray against concrete was the only accompaniment to my father-in-law's final ride. Someone maybe should have played a soundtrack of motorcycle engine with an Amazing Grace chaser, but those were details not thought of until the moment had come and nearly gone.
So too were the details surrounding how seating arrangements at the funeral would be worked out. As the spouse of one of the bereaved, it was my place to sit up front with him during the service. As the second wife of one of the bereaved; whose first wife, their kids, and her new husband were in attendance and sitting in the third row; seating arrangements became very dicey very quickly. In the end, my actions were cowardly and I sat in the back, 50 feet from Biff, watching the service like a stranger. At the moment, it seemed to me that sitting up front would have been an affront to those who had shared so much more history than me, legal and binding marriages notwithstanding. I'm not proud of how I chose to act; in fact, I am ashamed of the cowardice which I shrouded in a blanket of 'sensitivity for the family.' My place was with him, and I failed. Never again will this be allowed to happen. I am his, he is mine, and we are part of this big family together. That much was preached to me by more than one family member after the service, and I must step up and take my place, because these are people that it wouldn't really 'do' to disappoint. Nice people never are.
Watching grief take place is bizarre. Knowing that mourning is in active process, and not being able to fully engage with the assembled masses is disenfranchising. Thank goodness the funeral came with a strong message of hope, of peace, of connectedness and forgiveness. There were no loud bursts of weeping, no overt shows of sadness; instead the final goodbyes were messages of salvation, love, service, and redemption. Fellow chaplains, fellow motorcycle riders, fellow model airplane makers, old neighbors, former coworkers, and not a few former inmates to whom he ministered were in attendance. The homages were honest, heartfelt, poetic at times. To have such witness to a life served well is a testament to a man who meant to save the world, one lost soul at at a time. To see the measure of his success in the people who spoke of their love and admiration for him is inspiring. Bonds were forged, tears were shed, and then there was lunch.
Not a bad way to send off a man of such diverse interests, of such deep faith, of such strong family ties.
Still, too damn soon.