I struggled with that little field above. How does one title this?
“Funeral for a Friend”? No.
“Another One Bites the Dust”? Hell no.
. . . Wild Horses . . .
It’s happened again.
It was 1988 and I was sitting in French class. Monsieur Ellis was interrupted by the Spanish teacher. She came in and told him something in whispered tones. Without missing a beat, he pointed to the empty seat next to mine and announced that Gina, the girl who had become one of my dearest high school friends, had died that morning.
Gina was an artist. She loved Pink Floyd. And she had had a bought with pneumonia that she just couldn’t beat. She also had these strange lesions that came and went and eventually came and came and came. She had been an IV drug user. (But, really, who among us in 1988 hadn’t been?) Gina had long blonde hair and the thickest eyelashes I had ever seen. She had a gap between her teeth and she wore a lot of eyeliner and a fringed leather jacket – even in the summer.
Gina was one of the first “heterosexuals” to die in the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s. At least in Illinois.
And Monsieur Ellis pointed at her chair and announced that she had died like he was telling us our test results.
I was devastated.
But I was in French class. How does one mourn in French?
Fast forward through Grandpa Fred’s death, through a boyfriend’s death (car accident), through a number of family leave-takings, and place me squarely in the produce section of Kroger with my phone ringing and my Momma on the other end. Just wantin’ t’let me know that my closest male cousin in life was now on the other side.
As I thumped a melon.
As if it were nothing.
Because how do you mourn in the produce section?
Fast forward to last month when Facebook told me that Brother Preacherman‘s heart gave out before his spirit did.
Finding out about passings is never fun, but in the day of Facebook, we have decided to let social media do the dirty work for us.
I was pulling weeds on Sunday waiting for my beloved niece and her wife of ten years to arrive at my house when The Bad Eldest staggered out to the yard. “Momma. I know you hate to find out on Facebook. You haven’t been on Facebook today, right?”
My heart sank. I saw the tears streaking my baby-girl’s beautiful face. Puffy-eyed. Confused. Looking for a melon to thump.
“Who?” I tossed my handful of weeds aside and sat down hard.
Twenty-three year old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, soft-spoken, crooked-smiled, pixie-child, funny-laugh, Southern-pride, WDE, turkey-hunting, raised-right, horsie-girl.
Given the appropriateness of age, my baby was closer to her than I was. It crushed me a little; it must have crushed her a lot. Something about watching my daughter’s face over the last two days as she comes to terms with the fact that her first friend has died has made me want to call everyone and remind them that I love them.
I keep giving in to that urge.
We are going to the wake tomorrow. My family and a small entourage of close friends – “We just don’t want to go alone.”
I was planning to write a post about the ritual of funerals and how Pagans perceive death differently from “one-lifers.” But I can’t. Not yet. Let me get through the funeral of this baby-faced beauty and maybe I can find solace in a discussion of ritual.
Until then, for Abby: