Saturday, 10 May 2008
May 10th. A wedding and a funeral.
Today was our final goodbye to you. It was the day of your memorial service. The night before, I remember a growing sense of doom. A feeling, heavy, churning in the pit of my stomach. A growing seed of panic, whispering to me, louder and louder as the hours passed.
Joel bought some scotch, and he and Dad got out a video to pass the evening. Joel really looked after him Mum. He could tell when Dad needed to be alone, when Dad needed to be able to unload on me, and when he simply needed distraction. A glass of scotch, some cheeses and a good video (the type you used to hate him watching) was always an excellent way to lift Dad out of any funk.
I remember they got out Dead Calm. It's a movie I'd always wanted to see, but somehow never had gotten around to it. Dad and Joel settled down on the recliners, eyes dancing as tehy waited to have the life scared out of them. Though he'd sat there before, the sight of Joel, on the green leather of your recliner felt so wrong. Cleo wandered in, going straight to the seat. He started to rub himself up against Joel's legs, and it was just seconds before he stopped, still. He seemed to suddenly remember you weren't here. Like he'd forgotten, and must face it all over again. He left, he seemed sad. Can cats feel sorrow? Cleo certainly seemed to.
The whispering in my head grew m ore intense. I remember tryign to slow my breathing down. Slow breaths, Melissa. Slowly does it. You're ok.
I'm not. I knew what I was afraid of. It wasn't saying goodbye. We'd done that, of course. God, we'd spent a year saying our goodbyes. That wasn't it. It was saying goodbye in front of everyone. Knowing how many eyes would rest on me, waiting for reactions. I never told you the number of people who warned me. Trying to be gentle, admonishing me. "You need to take a break, Mel. You need to slow down. You need to take time for yourself. You're going to break. IT will all catch up on you, and you'll be a quivering mess". Friends. Family. Doctors. Your carers. Everyone.
They hurt me. Oh, I know they didn't mean to. I know they were speaking from a place of love and concern. I know how well I cared for you. I know that most (not so much the family, it woudl seem) were taken by it, admiring. But I was so hurt that so many people were waiting for my fall. Waiting for me to fail. Waiting for it allto be too much for me.
I spent the night before your funeral service in a state of panic. Wanting to die, rather than have that many eyes on me. I begged off from the movie. I said I was tired, kissed my husband and my father, and went into the bedfroom.
Joel followed me, to tuck me in. He lay by my side, held me, offered to come to bed. I told him I was exhausted, that I'd taken Mersyndol and would be fine. I lied. I was not fine. I was not nearly, even close to fine.
I could hear them talking. I could hear their laughs. I heard them joke about how you'd have hated this movie, and given Dad a hard time for watching it. It made me chuckle. You so would have. You never let him watch them. He used to sneak over to our place when yuou were resting, to 'help' with somethingorother, bringing a six pack and a thriller.
My heart started beating so fast. My arms and feet twitched. My chest felt heavy, as though something were sitting on me, holding down my lungs and my heart. For the first time, I started scratching. Really scratching. I scratched my legs. Well, not so much scratched, as rubbed, until they were burned. Friction burns, by the way, hurt like buggery the next day. I scratched until I bled. I didn't feel any pain that night, though they certainly made up for it the next day.
The day dawned, and I, as had become my habit, rose at 4. I used to try to get up at 4, before Alexander stirred. It gave me time to have a coffee as I prepared your medications. I went out and put the kettle on, and reached down to grab the mortar and pestle we used for your tablets. It was almost rythmic, grinding them so they wouldnt' stick in your peg. I got the tablets out and as I placed the first one in my hand paused. I remembered. I didn't need to do this anymore.
Pathetically, this was the 3rd morning since you died, that I had done this.
I sat, lost. Bereft. Suddenly with time on my hands, and nothing to do. What on earth was I supposed to do?
I rushed around most of the day, falling back on my usual method of distraction, taking care of the details. Flowers to organise, phone calls to make, deliveries to accept.
Joel did a beautiful job on your programme. He spent so long on it, needing it to be just so. It was his final act of devotion to you. The final job he could do for you as your son.
There were about 200 people at your service. Everyone wanting to say goodbye. Noone knowing quite how. Michelle and Mary were there. Distraught. Remembering their workmate, colleague and confidant. The Centre has not been the same since you left. Tamara and Katrina both have their kids in there. It's not the same though. I'm not sure I'll ever go back.
Darren and Tracey were there. They knew they were next. They knew Damon's funeral would be next. Not even 8 years old, and they were making plans. Trace and I spent a bit of time together. She understood. She knew I didn't want to go and sit up the front. She knew I didn't want those eyes on me.
So I didn't. I found myself 'accidentally' still greeting guests when the service started. So there I stayed, up the back. The rest of the family was in the front seet, happy enough to accept those looks and hugs and whispered condolonces. Except two of us. I stood up the back, holding hands with Tracy. And Dad. Together, we watched over your service, discreetly hidden away amongst the others. Standing room only, did you know. So many people. Did you know some of your nurses came. Came to say goodbye. You touched so many people.
The service was exactly as you had wanted. Poignant, funny and so very 'you'. Asking people to remember you as "intelligent, witty, compassionate and a size 8" set the tone for a fitting tribute to you.
It was 5 years ago, we all said goodbye. I miss you more now, than I did that day.
May 10th is also significant in our family for another reason. It is the wedding anniversary of Ray and Wendy, Joel's parents.
Ray and Wendy married on May 10th, 1975. 11 months and just a few days later, Wendy gave birth to the love of my life. For that gift alone, I love them.
They've had four children, all now married. So now, 33 years later, they find themselves surrounded by plenty of noise, plenty of drama, but more importantly, a cup overflowing with love. 8 children, where there were 4. 5 Grandchildren, with 3 to come in the next 3 months. We all live within 5kms of each other, and our homes are filled with images of our family, our parents, our children. All because of these two humble, giving people.
They adore my children, with a love almost as fierce as our own. The feeling is mutual.
They have created something truly beautiful, a loving family. Happy Anniversary, Ray and Wendy. Thank you for opening your hearts and loving me as your daughter(even when I stole the golden child.:) ). Thank you for loving my children as much as you do, you offer them such a gift, and they are so lucky to have you both in their lives.
We all are.
May 10th. A wedding and a funeral.
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