Yesterday was the “Service of Remembrance”, I believe it was called, at the same Washburn-McReavy where Natalie’s viewing/wake was held. I’d been dreading it, as I’m sure we all were, but the fact that it was on the 19th, the six month mark exactly, made it a must attend event. I’d expected it would be hard. I wasn’t looking forward to walking back into Washburn-McReavy and I drug my feet on the way in.
The first thing that surprised me was how full the parking lot was. I guess I’d imagined it was going to be a small, intimate gathering. We almost didn’t have room to park (maybe I was hoping for that? Oh, nowhere to park? I guess we’d better just go home…). But, we found a spot. The cold wind forced me to hug myself tight on the way in.
Right inside the doorway was a fountain. Behind that was a set of double doors. Behind those white doors, was the viewing room where everyone else saw her for the first time. I’d driven to Minneapolis with my friend Shar earlier to possibly help with Natalie’s makeup. They didn’t need my help they told me but I could go in and see her if I wanted…
*If you want to hear more about that part of the experience, check the blog posts right after the 19th, I don’t think I can do it again now and still finish this post.*
Suffice it to say, once I realize which room was directly in front of us, I got sick to my stomach. Fortunately, in front of those doors was a long table filled with Christmas ornaments with the names of loved ones lost. We collected our ornament and were led to the chapel. There was a singer/piano player in the hallway. She sang/played “Amazing Grace” and I mentally cussed her out because I could feel the tears start to burn.
Since the parking lot was full, it should’ve come as no surprise that the chapel was also almost at capacity. For a few seconds, it reminded me of high school or riding the bus. All the cool kids were in the back… The further away from the teacher/event speaker, the better. So, imagine my elation when I sat myself in the very front row… I probably could’ve fit in the second row with my family but I felt strongly about sitting as close as I could (read: I am not a cool kid, ha!). I went for the spot on the far end of the pew, the corner. That way I could prop myself up with the bench and the wall.
I faced forward, looking at this…
The only difference was there was a single candle in the center of the open space and a pastor in the chair near the podium. I think there was also a water fountain somewhere… I heard running water, I guess it was probably from the fountain in the front, now that I think about it. Man, the acoustics in that place… my full bladder was going crazy!
The sermon?, the speech? I don’t know what it was called… was very moving. I took notes, honestly! He had a soothing voice and the words of God. I almost missed going to church. He talked about his brother-in-law who was a grief counselor and the three main things to focus on after losing someone.
Number 1. Ask yourself “What have I really lost?”
Number 2. Ask yourself “What do I have left?”
Number 3. Ask yourself “What are the possibilities?”
We closed with a prayer and rose to leave. The woman next to me, who’d been reaching for the tissues about as often as I was had a big button pinned to her purse and it took me by surprise. “Does your button say ‘I love Gaga’?” Her face lit up with a smile and she said “Yes, my son calls my mother that!” I tried to find words, I guess “Gaga” isn’t all that original, but still, I was surprised to see it anywhere outside of Tayla and Mary’s relationship.
“Who did you lose?” She asked, her face returning to a somber expression.
“My sister” I said.
“Me too! She was young, wasn’t she?”
She reached for me and we hugged each other so tight, I imagined she thought I was her sister and she was mine.
“Well my sister was 59…”
“Still too young” I said.
“Can I ask what happened?”
Before y’all start… I know that I *can* ask and I should’ve said *may* but grammar be damned! (in this situation)
For the first time, since I can remember, I struggled with telling someone how Natalie passed. I don’t know what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t find the words but it was several seconds before I was able to spit out the word addiction.
“She must have been in a lot of pain…”
I nodded, so grateful to not have this woman recoil away from me in horror and question my right to be there and be grieving. I don’t even know where those thoughts came from!
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of” she continued.
I kept nodding.
Finally, I was able to speak. “She was going on 10 months of sobriety. That heroin… it’s a kind of monster I don’t think too many people understand. I don’t understand it but I know that recovery from it, it’s not like any other drug I’ve ever heard about…” I had been staring at the carpet for most of my comment. Finally, I looked up and asked her
“How long has it been?”
“Wow. Natalie was May 19th. Six month ago, today.”
She gave me another hug and said “We’ll get through it”.
I hoped to myself that she was right.
As she was about to walk away, she said “Oh, by the way, thanks for bawling and making a scene, it made me feel like I could cry too…”
I think I smiled and said something like anytime.
“Bawling and making a scene”?!?!?! Ha. Lady, you have NO IDEA how much restraint I was using. I thought I was doing a fairly decent job, actually but… maybe not quite as good as I thought? All I know is I was making sure to focus on my breath and not dry heave in front of the entire chapel.