I never fessed up because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take away the meaning they’d assigned.
What I’d said was, “Five years ago today was the happiest day of my life. Today is the second happiest day of my life, because I can see how very much (emotional throat glitch) he was loved.”
From what I’ve been told, miss-hearings varied from, “how very much Jesus loved him,” to how very much Jesus loves us.”
Our United Methodist Church Pastor was one of the misunderstandees. His own throat-closing confession to an entire sanctuary of mostly unknown-to-him funeral attendees that the decision not to marry Jeff and me was the greatest regret of his ministry career, sealed my lips.
Shortly thereafter, the minister invited everyone to fellowship after the conclusion of the celebration of life for Jeffrey Korte. But, before the dismissing blessing, he also asked if there was anyone who hadn’t had a chance to speak but would like to now.
There was such a complete and awkward silence that if I hadn’t known there were people behind me, I wouldn’t have suspected anyone was there.
Then, it happened.
In a 100% Jeff moment, his picture leapt off the communion rail and tumbled over backwards. The people murmured, the tension broke, and Pastor David took it as a sign.
Paraphrasing, again, it was something that included ‘going’ and ‘eating’ like, “I think Jeff’s sayin’ it’s time to eat,” or “I guess Jeff’s ready to go eat.”
There was laughter and a blessing and then it was over. The funeral had officially ended.
I was advised to stay where I was for a few moments, because there were likely people who would not be joining us at the Masonic Hall who may want to have a word before they left.
So, I stood there, and said thank you and goodbye to some; hello and thank you to others. But, the only ones I remember were the four-in-a-row.
“It gives me great joy that you believe in our Lord and Savior.”
“Jesus was with you up there today and he will continue to be with you.”
“What a testimony to your faith! Jesus loves us -Hallelujah and Amen.”
“Your faith in Christ surpasses mine.”
Then, the witness.
Making our way to cross the church lot, the witness, my mother, spoke.
So, I’ll tell you, again. I have no idea who I was writing to.
I’m at a loss really. I’m not sure who I was addressing, but I have thought a lot about who I wasn’t addressing. The ministers covered so much about family and friends, without some of the more questionable parts, but still with enough give to allow for a watery smile or a grimaced chuckle.
I didn’t really decide to add humor to my thoughts. I wasn’t going for a lighten-up-the-atmosphere effect. I just did what I always do. Wrote in my speaking voice. I just wanted to say aloud to as many people as possible, to explain – the importance of him. And the importance of him + me.
I started out steady enough. Halfway through the second sentence, I strangled – I ran out air. I choked emotionally. I blinked the blurriness (that I refused to let fall) into evaporation, gulped and pushed out the rest in a very short-of-breath fashion.
I’m a little hard to understand on regular days. My natural tendency tends to cause confusion. Speaking softly was never a stylistic choice. I will make an effort to overcompensate when alerted to the need.
Much, like the sex-talk Nannee thought she and I had had, but hadn’t – soft speaker vs hard of hearing.
What I said next was similarly interpreted widely off the mark. Terribly misunderstood.
Yes, I had microphone. But, no. Apparently, that didn’t help.
I never fessed up.
Some very important people in my life sought me out that afternoon to say that the words they thought I’d said had made an indelible impact on their hearts. Not in those words and not collectively, but there were 4 of them, plus 1. The first four were one right after another. The fifth was present for all of the others, but reserved comment for a bit.
Following the logic of lyric interpretation – in the old days, at least – when “so fine” was the precursor to “a bangin’ #ut#” – I respect creativity and adore the creators who, very sincerely, decline to explain their work.
What it means to you might be a world away from the aim. The important part is that it gave you something, whether intended or not. The gift is that it moved you, made you more determined, opened your eyes, changed your mind – for the better, for you, whatever.
Sometimes, there’s just no need to correct the notion.
Next warp: standing in the sanctuary entry/aisle. I was either second or third in receiving and I have no idea who was first or second or fourth or even how many of us there were. I can’t conjure that tidbit from the obviously buried perhaps happily oblivious depths of my brain.
I tunnel-vision greeted.
: family and friends, and friends of the family and the families of our friends, friends of friends, my current coworkers, Jeff’s ex-workers, store patrons, other mall store owners, BNI networkers, business associates, website builders, marketing coaches, church family, neighbors and I’m sure I’m leaving out some major category.
I’d requested no flowers, due to allergies. More truthfully, I think I mandated it at the second planning. God, everyone was so accommodating. Maybe everybody else really wanted flowers. I could have taken a Benadryl. I was already fuzzy, fuzzed on caffeine, and sugar-buzzed, because I drank the rest of Jeff’s semi-flat liter of Mt Dew. One more zone wouldn’t have mattered.
One person, an ex-coworker of Jeff’s, didn’t get that restrictive email. That accounted for the wreath, and truly, it would have been horrible without it. He tried to apologize for it. I told him it was beautiful and needed – a lovely medley of warm fall colors.
(I just smiled to myself remembering the end of our 48- hour first date when Jeff asked me what kind of flowers I liked. I explained the situation. The next time he came around, he brought carnations, and a squash in case the carnations were wrong. The time after that, he brought daisies.)
No idea how long we stood there nodding and hugging and shaking. It didn’t feel that long to me. There are only a few crystal-clear encounters in my replay-loop. But, there was still a waiting-line out the front door when Pastor Dave suggested we take our seats so we could get started.
I meant to move forward, but there’s another story to tell tonight.
There’s no reason to relive that grief, when other’s are so…
… fresh, isn’t really the word I want to use, but it gets the point across, and tonight, I’m tired of searching for perfection.
There’s one thing I’ve learned about this business of living and dying.
Even if you know, it’s still a surprise.
There’s no way to prepare, but we try to do it, anyway.
We tell ourselves “If this happens, I’ll do that.”
“When that happens, I’ll do this.”
Strong. Sad. Brave. Devastated. Lost.
Reasonable. Relieved. Reassured.
Alone or in groups: family, friends, acquaintances.
You will be: all of them, at once, in a moment, breath by breath.
Whether you’ve been through this before or not, the emotional war is never won.
Because, there’s nothing to win in the face of loss.
There’s giving what you can and taking what you need. Relying on each other.
And my only imperative:
May Your Happiest Memories Stay with You Through This Time
and Forever into the Future.
I had the strangest reaction today. I thought, “I should call Mom.” And, I realized it’s been 18 years since I broke down in CVS trying to find the best last Father’s Day Card. Even if there was a direct line to heaven, there’d never be a data plan big enough to cover it.