Monday, March 4, 2013

Death comes in 2's this time

Death comes is three's. I have no idea why but it seems to be true. But this year it only came in two's.

The first was a father I never really knew. He died in August. I never really looked for him and when I did all that was left was an obituary. I waited too long, didn't look hard enough. It didn't matter, he was gone and all my unanswered questions remained.

Death number 2 came as a wave. I was standing in line at a one of those dive BBQ places that gets mentioned on cable TV. It was my 33rd birthday and we had planned on spending the night in Austin celebrating. As I made small talk with the other people in line I went to update my status on facebook and saw 1 sentence that will forever be burned in my mind.

Felissa died this morning, Call me. Meg

My hands started to shake. My stomach flipped. I kept staring at the phone trying to understand what was going on while attempting to memorize Meg's 9 digit phone number. I finally aligned all numbers and heard my friend on the other end sobbing as she told me something I didn't want to hear.

My eyes filled with water and I couldn't seem to catch my breath. I kept asking what happened, grilling her for details. Somehow I was trying to put the pieces together so I could understand how to solve this puzzle.

She had died in her sleep. Nobody knows why. Everyone's in shock. Nobody knows when the funeral will be.

Funeral. Felissa. Dead. Desmond. Her new baby. Her mom. Devon. Why.

My mind couldn't stop repeating those words over and over. Meg and I cried and promised to meet in Utah no matter what.

The next few days came and went. Meg would fill me in when she heard news. I cried alone driving. I cried during church when the pastor kept mentioning death. I cried when I held my son. I cried when I saw her facebook pictures. I cried at the airport. I cried on the plane. I cried in bed at night when nobody could hear.

Somehow I found my way to this funeral parlor in a small town that I had never been to. I knew when I opened the door that she was inside. I had this weird since of optimism that somehow it was all a mistake and there would be no casket. No death. Just my friend.

I saw her son first. Standing next to her casket. I couldn't breathe. He's only 13. I met him when he was 5. He shouldn't be here. Is he going to be OK. I hugged too hard and whispered in his ear that I was sorry. What do you say? I met her husband. She had married 2 years before and I had never met him.

Then I saw her baby. He was 6 weeks old. I couldn't hold him. I just kissed him on the forehead.
He still smelled new, like baby powder and lavender lotion.

I hugged her sister and mom and met people I don't remember.

She was laying in a casket. My sweet friend. It wasn't right. Her things were laid out on tables surrounded by pictures from her wedding, the hospital room where she delivered her son, her honeymoon, her life. All summarized in a display of photos and flowers. I was looking for her. I kept waiting to see her. To hear her voice. Even while I stared at her lying in a casket. Where was she? My mind couldn't process it. A viewing. A funeral parlor or hall or whatever. This was not real. It was all wrong.

We went to dinner with friends and I tried my best to be light. To laugh. To remember the girl I knew.  I think we all pretended we were just hanging out. It felt like those days before your wedding when all your friends are in town. I told her stories. I laughed and I tried to avoid eye contact with her husband. I didn't know what to say to him. I was just sick of saying sorry.

We finally said goodbye and I spent a sleepless night in a hotel room I can't remember.

Then the funeral started. We all gathered in a small viewing room so they could close the casket and move her to the main room for the service. He husband kissed her forhead and I had to shut my eyes. I clenched my friends hand as we walked the hallway to the chapel. Somehow we all got seperated and were sitting in different places when it started. Her dad gave the obituary and then a friend spoke and when she concluded she said that we should get up and speak cause that is what Felissa would want.

I knew she was right. I didn't want to talk. But I needed to. I walked to the front and waited in a small line for my turn.

When I got up there I don't really know what I said. But what I hope I said was that I loved her. She was one of those people that change you. She was easy to be with. No judgement and no approval. She was kind and generous and was the kind of friend that would walk through fire for you.

We were roommates for a few years, both raising kids without husbands. We had movie nights and cooked dinners together. We planned birthday parties and bought furniture. We cried when life was hard and laughed when it wasn't. Oh how we laughed. I laughed more with her than anyone else.

 She had a loud big great laugh. She was fun, so much fun. She made me feel alive. We shared ballet recitals and football games and glasses of wine and our faith, our regrets, our dreams, our pasts. We went through break ups and dealt with our families. We were both broke and alone but for that time in my life she was all I had. She gave great big hugs even when I didn't want one. She believed in me cause that was just who she was. She saw the good in everything. We started working together and most people assumed we were probably a couple. It was like a marriage.

Did you take out the trash. I was thinking chicken for dinner. We need to talk to the kids about emptying the litter box. I want to see that movie, how about Sunday after church.

This was our world. Everyday we woke up in the same house drove the same roads to the same office and had dinner in the same kitchen.

She was my best friend. She was all I had. She made me stop worrying and laugh. We got into trouble together, made mistakes together, felt lost and felt invincible. She always ended a phone call by saying
"love you" even when I didn't.

Now she was gone. Now it would never be ever again.

The funeral concluded after 2 hours of people that loved her told their stories. This one girl said she had been homeless and had a child with nowhere to go and Felissa took her in. That was my friend. I loved that piece of her, that selfless give all you have cause it's right part. I know now how rare that is. That is special.

We walked outside to the cemetary. As we waited for the hearse to make it's way over I was watching her sister in law with the baby. She was trying to console him. It was something his mom should of been doing. I kept reminding myself that his mom was gone. He would never hear her laugh.

Then this one moment happened that will forever be burned in my mind. The sister in law dropped the baby's blanket and didn't notice. Then they started unloading her casket. Her son was carrying it. And I will never forget the image of this bright blue baby blanket resting on the ground with her older son carrying her casket. None of them should of been there. There shouldn't be baby's blanket at a funeral. Their mom's should pick up their blankets when they fall. She should of been there. She can't be gone.

They released balloons and I touched her casket and said a prayer and then said my good byes and left my friend in Utah. I somehow made it home. I somehow kept going to work and talking to my kids and making dinner and listening to music and pretending that life goes on.

But it never really does. I will always think of her. I thought about her when I was drying the dishes. I bought orange tulips at the grocery store cause I was afraid I would die and look back and regret how many times I said "Not today".

I hope her memory reminds me that life is fast and fleeting and a great friend is worth it.
Cause life does get hard and empty. But she showed me to find the bright spots.

I don't know who said it but I love this quote.

"It is easy to be heavy. It is hard to be light."

That was Felis, she was light. She was light even in her own darkness.

She chose to see the good in everything and did her best to ignore the bad.

I hope I can learn to be more like her.