I'm only going to recap a few little somethings of Robb's funeral on Friday and my experience as a pallbearer for the first time, which despite my grief I felt as high an honor as I've ever had bestowed upon me. Standing there in the presence of other cousins, seven of us in total, felt overwhelming and soothing at the same time. There was a beauty in the experience that was completely singular and unparalleled, and though I'd do it again without hesitation for someone else I loved deeply, in a very fundamental way I hope never to have to again.
At several points before the funeral when my family was receiving family and friends, I got overstimulated and had to leave the room where Robb's coffin sat beneath the biggest, most beautiful spray of roses and calla lillies I've ever seen before. It was so big in fact it had to be carried in a van to the cemetery, it wouldn't fit on the coffin in the hearse. There were gorgeous flower arrangements from one end of the room to the other. When I returned to the room at one point, D pointed out one particular arrangement that my Aunt had made specially. Her daughter is my cousin Sherydane (pronounced Sheridan), and is a lesbian. It was an arrangement of daisies and baby's breath and ivy, with two different clusters of ribbons on it. One was a rainbow in bold colors, the other a rainbow in pastels. D explained that she'd told him the ribbons were to represent both Sherydane and I, and how sweet and thoughtful he thought it was. Of course I had to leave the room again after that.
When we first arrived in Rome, we went straight to Mama's. She absolutely adores D and they constantly fawn over one another, which always makes me feel better to see. I think throughout the day she told him she loved him and hugged him about 30 times, no lie. We sat her down and told her that I'd proposed to D and he had accepted, and she as completely elated. She started to cry, but I told her if she cried I woud cry, then D would cry, and who would save us then? She was so proud and so happy. Before leaving and so I could prepare myself for it, I asked her if it would be an open coffin, and her face changed as she shook her head 'no'. I was then reminded that it took over 4 hours to cut his body out of the car. The three of us went to the funeral home, and it was already buzzing with people. Once I got into the room, I saw Phyllis (Robb's mother and my cousin). She was talking to her sister, my cousin Ann. I'd been told already that she was taking all of this rather well, considering her youngest child was lying dead in a wooden box directly behind her. She was even smiling, and then she saw me walking cautiously toward her. It felt like the room stopped and all eyes were upon us and I took her in my arms trying desperately not to fall apart, until I felt and heard her sobbing and clinging to me tightly. She told me that she didn't know how she was going to live without him now, and I told her that I wasn't sure either but we were going to have to try - and then it happened. "I just saw him last weekend. One of the very last things he said to me was about you, he asked if I knew whether or not you were still in Columbus because he had been thinking about you, he missed you." I can vividly recall every point in my life where I've stood there and literally felt my heart break, go blubbery inside my chest, and all of my will and strength pool at my feet. I felt that again on Friday twice. The second time was when I saw my cousin Linda (Lynn's mother) who explained to me that she wasn't sure that she could take anymore, having just buried both her mother and son in the space of one month just before losing Robb. I held her as she cried and told me about Lynn. I explained to her that I wasn't told of his death until after the fact, and she expressed gratitude for that. "First Mama, and then Lynn. It was the most awful death I've ever seen, you cannot imagine it. Everthing was shutting down and he just wouldn't let go. It was just awful. He wasted down to only 65 pounds. And now this." Before the service began, only family was allowed in the room. My cousins Keith and Brian, also pallbearers, explained that we would be able to view Robb's body. I was quite startled at this revelation, but was reassured that they had spent an extra day preparing him and that he wasn't as bad as I had expected, given what he was put through. Pallbearers went before the coffin first, and I started to look but turned my head and cried as soon as I saw the stitches in his face.
My cousin Terri, whom I rarely get the opportunity to see, eventually showed up and kept by my side along with D and Mama for the duration of the day. I cannot tell you how much better that made the day passing for me went. She kept D company when I was away from him and they sat together in the chapel while I sat with my pallbearer cousins. Seeing him with my family, being embraced (literally and metaphorically) by them all - even having his life threatned by Terri should he ever hurt me - was a huge sense of comfort in the midst of all the pain. As soon as the graveside service was over and everyone was set to leave, I told Mama that I had to go home. I couldn't take any more of this, I wanted to go home. We said our goodbyes to everyone and returned to Mama's, where she brought out the old photo albums, and showed D all of these pictures from my childhood which I know he loves doing.
It started to rain, and I decided that we needed to hurry up and get on the road for the three hour drive home. From the street corner we looked up and saw Mama waving down to us from her apartment window. I called my sister shortly afterward to recap the day, and when I got to the part Linda told me about Lynn, she told me something that ended the day for me emotionally on a sweeter note that defined for me the human spirit and will, the strength and determination that runs so deeply in my blood.
This past Spring, Lynn wanted annuals planted in front of his house. By this time he was so sick he couldn't stand and could barely sit up for very long periods of time. He knew that his time was coming and he'd never see another Spring, but he wanted to leave a sense of rebirth that was exclusively his own during this seasonal time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Everyone offered to plant the flowers, but he insisted on doing it himself. He made them put sleeping bags on the ground outside of the house, and he spent days crawling around on them planting his flowers until it was finished exactly as he wanted it. And that's who he was, and who he will always be to me. It's that part of our blood that cannot be told anything otherwise once we set out on something.
There is always a better time. I am confident I'm going to be alright now.