16 February 2012

Funeral Reunion

[Background for this post: I graduated high school 35 years ago and have, for the most part, not kept in touch with any of the people in my class.]

Read an obituary in the paper; the mother of one of my old high school friends died. I decided to go to the wake, because I remembered her as a kind and friendly woman and because even though I hadn't seen him in quite a while, I wanted my old friend to know that I still remembered her fondly.

The wake was huge. It was held in an enormous, seemingly endless hall. The coffin, set on a dais,  was at the front, set up so people entering the hall could pass the dais and pay their last respects before running the gauntlet of the receiving line.

I passed the coffin and silently brought up some memories of her, and then said a final "goodbye." As I stepped away, I suddenly realized that the reception line was on the other side of a long, 3-foot-tall hedge and I would have to walk all the way to the end of the hedge, cross through a gap, and double back before going through the line and taking a seat.

I passed a huge statue of an angel on a pedestal. She was very biblical, wearing a long, flowing robe. She was in a standing posture with one leg slightly raised, her granite wings fully spread as though she were flapping them madly to gain altitude. She looked down at me and her face was kind and sad and loving and pitying and slightly smiling all at once. At the base of the pedestal were piles of tiny bones, so tiny that I knew they were bird bones. They weren't part of the statue, they were real bones, and they had been burned in a fire until they were ashen grey and as brittle as the thinnest and most excellent porcelain. Suddenly I thought that she wasn't looking at me, but at the bones.

I was still on the wrong side of the hedge as I passed the reception line. People in the line looked at me as I walked by. All of the people I had been good friends with were there and none of them had aged so much as a single day since I had last seen them decades ago. They smiled at me. I smiled and nonned in acknowledgment. 

I passed through the gap in the hedge, but before I could reach the line, my friend's father met me, filled with joy that I had come to the wake. He was huge - he seemed seven feet tall, with massive arms and a vast girth. He greeted me warmly and laughed his way through my name, then reached out and embraced me - pinning my arms to my side and utterly crushing me as he hugged and them stood up, lifting me at least two feet off the ground.

By the time he had released me, my friends were gone and the wake was grinding slowly to an end. I went out to the parking lot and it was a jumble of cars all jostling to exit. My friends were nowhere in sight.