It is now 10 days since Len’s death and today is funeral day. We have arrived at the funeral home and most of my extended family is already there. I take a quick look around at all the people and quickly put my game face on. I will be completely in charge of my emotions, I will be strong for mother and children, and I will get through this day with my dignity in tact. My mother has spotted me and is making a beeline to me. I try to put a smile on my face and stiffen up as she wraps her arms around me, she is trying to tell me something through her tears and I am not sure just what she is saying. She starts to pull me towards the chapel where we will have the actual service and I am not wanting to go. I would rather not go in there till I absolutely have to but there seems to be no stopping her.
We step into the chapel and she points to the front and at first all I can see is flowers. Bouquet after bouquet, there are flowers everywhere, they really are beautiful. But my mom is persistent and keeps pointing to the middle of the flowers and then I see it. There amongst the flowers is a casket, it is beautiful, deep mahogany finish with silver fittings. It has smooth lines and is beveled at the ends, it reminds me of a car. The first words out of my mouth are “whose casket is it”? She looks at me kind of funny then says “it’s Len”. I look at her and it still is not registering for me and I say, “What do you mean its Len”. My mother smiles and tells me “Len arrived late last night”. When I question the casket she again smiles and says this is just how he arrived. I am speechless and can feel the tears starting to flow. If there is such a thing as a beautiful casket then this is the most beautiful of all.
I stand beside the casket and it finally hits me that Len is here, this is all real, he really has died and we I will never see him again. For the past 10 days I have wanted this day to arrive so we could put closure on everything but now that it’s here I have to face the fact that Len is DEAD. His last words to me the day before he left for vacation were “we will get together for dinner when I get back and I have arranged for Dawn to drop the pumpkins at your front door for the girls Halloween”.
A young woman from the funeral home comes up to me and introduces herself as Shannon, she will be my funeral coordinator for the day. I ask where Brad is, hoping we didn’t get him fired, Shannon assures me that it’s just his day off. We start to get people into the chapel and settled. My mom, brother, sister and my family are sitting in the front row together. My father and his sister and husband are opposite us. We make eye contact and give weak smiles. My mom’s oldest brother has agreed to make the introductions and keep things flowing during the service. Some music starts and the entire front row start crying, I look to my husband, he is taking care of our children. My brother and sister are sitting with their arms around my mom, the three of them are sobbing. I sit there feeling very alone and think I want to get out of here, if I stay any longer I won’t be able to get up in front of all these people and say the eulogy. I notice on the right of our pew an alcove; I get up and walk in there and pull myself together.
In the alcove I find Shannon, she gives me a smile. I use this opportunity to ask her a question that my sister has been asking. “Did anyone from the funeral home open the casket and check that it is really Len” Shannon tell’s me “Yes, we checked and made confirmation with the photo’s you have set up”. By this time my uncle is introducing me and I take a deep breath and walk out to the podium. I look at all the people who have come there is well over 100 and people are standing around the back walls. I then look at my brother and sister expecting them to get up and stand beside me. But neither one of them is making eye contact with me. I take a few deep breaths and start to talk, I have tried to memorize the eulogy but still find I need to refer to my printed sheets. As I am speaking to the mourners, in my mind all I can hear is "speak slowly, speak slowly". Before you know it I am done and once again look at my siblings thinking, “you didn’t come up with me, you didn’t have my back like you said you would”.
For the most part the rest of the service is a blur, except one person. I can’t at this time remember their name but they were part of the scuba diving team and on the boat with Len when he died. This man wants to talk to us and tell us what happened. I need to hear his story, as he was the last person to be with Len while he was alive.