Matt and I went to a ‘visitation’ tonight for one of the women I coach with, her dad passed away a few nights ago from a sudden heart attack, he was in relatively good shape and was only 49 years old. I heard the news from the head coach over the phone on Sunday and immediately was struck with how much pain she is probably feeling. But then thirty minutes or so after I had hung up the phone we are back to our normal Sunday. I said a prayer, I thought about her, her brother, and her mom. I felt at a loss of what to do next that could possibly help them in any way. A few days later I received the email about the visitation and quickly realized I have never been to a visitation, only funerals. I guess the point of the visitation is to give the guests the guaranteed opportunity to speak with the family at the funeral home and typically the casket is set up at the front of the room surrounded by flowers. I wonder if this gives any sort of relief for the family during the actual funeral… seeing how they have already talked to most everyone in attendance, now they can just be, whatever that may look like. Now thinking about a casket being set up and then actually seeing one is a far different story. I am a big believer in donating any parts to Science if you can, once someone passes, and then cremation. I have never believed in the Spirit so much until I had the blessing of holding my Grandma’s hand as she left this world. I knew that she was with us, and then she wasn’t, her Spirit was no longer attached to her body. And to continue to see her body without her Spirit didn’t feel right.
We walk into the funeral home, which I must say was a very beautiful cemetery, I could never imagine choosing to be there obviously, working there, or anything like that. But another beautiful Spirit was laid to rest here as well and I find it a warm place to be. We were greeted by a tall man in black, quickly escorted down the long long line of people waiting to speak to the family. We stood in line, swayed in silence, and overheard a few meaningless conversations about who banks where, what engineering firm is best, and the great fall of something called the big 12…. All good distractions from why we were really there. Throughout the guests walking in I said hello to two other coaches, a few parents and players too, we all found very little to say to one another but only today.
We all go through our own pain and hurt, this I know. But when you are in the midst of someone else’s nightmare, it silences everything else.
We make our way closer to the family and finally enter the room where a dvd is playing on a big screen, quietly showing pictures, and glimpses of this man’s life and the family he has created. His childhood, his awkward years, some great photos from college, then moving on to his wedding and his two children. Very regular, every day photos that made you think this could be almost anyone you know. This could have been your uncle, friend, co-worker, anyone. Just past this room you turn and can see the family. You see the wife you have never met but instantly empathize and just saw her once smiling face attached to the man that is now stuck ten feet behind her in a casket. And then I see the coach, my acquaintance that I’d rather just say is a friend, not because of this, but because I know we have grown closer this year than ever before and I have appreciated that connection. I see her as she shakes hands, hugs, and warmly greets the dozens of people down a line that seems to never end.
As we get closer Matt realizes I am about to lose it, and by ‘it’ I mean my tears, I am on the verge of gushing tears. Why? Because I hurt for this family and I feel like on any given day it could be any one of us and that terrifies me. So through my glossy eyes I look back at my husband and say “quick, make me laugh”. This may seem totally inappropriate to some of you, but to me, it was the perfect time to have my hilarious husband come up with something ridiculous to take my mind off my thoughts even just for a few seconds. I just wanted to make it to the parking lot until I started crying. I didn’t want to show this person who had been through hell that I was crying too. I feared that somehow I would add to her pain when all I wanted to do was to telepathically send her strength, and if I couldn’t do that for some reason then I at least wanted to act strong by not crying in front of her.
So Matt pulled out a great load of quotes from an Arrested Development episode, one of our favorite shows. And although it only last ten seconds, that relief of not crying felt like twenty minutes. I finally felt myself breath again and even though I was softly pinching my hand (to keep my mind off the pain around us, the casket, the flowers, the older women that were crying and shaking). Suddenly we were standing next to her mom, I don’t even want to pretend that I introduced myself properly and said something eloquent as she saw the tears swell up in my eyes and I looked through her very tired dry eyes as she nodded us past. Next to her was the woman I coach with and we hugged immediately, I said I was sorry, ‘sorry I tried to keep it together’, she quietly laughed and said ‘it’s okay to cry, I thought I would have stopped by now but I can’t.” She almost seemed relieved that I was tearing up and we hugged at least three more times, mostly by my forcing, if I don’t know how to help you, I am at the very least going to hug you more than twice, that’s my rule. We hurried to the exit as I had told Matt that is what I wanted to do after we spoke with the family. I didn’t know what else to do, if we stuck around there I would have cried more in front of strangers and I wasn’t sure what to do with that. I just felt like once we had ‘paid our respects’ it was better if we excused ourselves and thankfully I knew we had lovely plans waiting for us at home as my dad was planning on joining us for dinner. This thought made me feel sad (for those that can’t have those plans) and infinitely grateful for having my dad in my life and also living so closely.
What do we take from all of this? Probably a dozen things or nothing. But I hope it can look something like this; new found perspective for every single day you wake up and the sun is shining. Taking full advantage of every chance you get to spend time with your family and loved ones. Feeling grateful for everyone and everything in your life because it could always be worse. Not wasting time on the little things that don’t matter. Reminder to be more kind to yourself and those around you, because everyone is going through something. Find something in your life that brings you joy, or comfort, or love and cherish it, it may be the very same thing that helps you through the most difficult time of your life.