Wednesday, September 17, 2008

'The Man Tales' - The Funeral

I woke in the strangeness of a room that was not my own and felt my loss hit me. I knew that after today Cid would be gone – forever. Somehow I had convinced myself that he was still here because he had not been buried, and the horror of that thought swept through my mind, and all I wanted to do was pull the blankets over my head and stay there. Opening the curtains, I could see the day was bright and hard and cold. I felt it was probably portentous and it made me want to run as far away as I could from the looming experience I was about to fall into.

In the kitchen, Cid’s mother and uncle were talking in Italian. A silence like a lid fell on the room when I entered and tried out a weak smile on them both. His mother turned to me and handed me a piece of paper and tried to make a small speech. Cid had stated that he wanted to give me $1000 for looking after him and to cover my expenses during that time. His mother now told me she had added more money to that to thank me for everything I had done for her son. I looked down at the paper and saw that I was holding a cheque for $3000. I stared at it blankly and thought – It’s not going to bring him back. Is it?

The funeral was set for 1pm and my stomach was clenched so hard it made me feel sick. I needed to get away from these people and the house that Cid had lived in, so I took the cheque and went looking for the bank it was written on. I didn’t know what else to do. When I returned with the cash in my pocket, his mother was beside herself and screamed at me that they thought I was going to miss the funeral. I stared at them, unable to comprehend why they would ever think that. Shaking my head I went and dressed.

The black limousine took three silent people to the Catholic Church where Cid’s body lay beneath the lid of the coffin. As we walked down the aisle, my eyes were focused on the coffin as it drew closer and closer. Sitting in the front row I stared at the gleaming wood and heard words that drifted past my ears like the murmuring of a brook. I stared at the flowers and listened to the music until a sudden recollection hit me and everything stopped.

“He wanted yellow,” I said.

His mother gasped and looked at me in astonishment. The priest hesitated briefly as my words reached him, but I barely noticed.

“He wanted yellow flowers. Cid told me – let there be yellow flowers Aims – and there’s not even one here!”

His mother shushing me made me suddenly realize that we were in the middle of the service and I hung my head and cried. Another memory surfaced and I realized that they weren’t playing the music he had wanted either. I had failed him. Even though they had made the arrangements for the funeral without me – I felt I had failed him.

Sitting once more in the black limo, I stared numbly as the pallbearers brought the casket out and slid it into the back of the hearse. My breath stuck in my throat and I could feel the ball of pain sitting there before it came out of me in huge croaking sobs. Turning my tear-streaked face away from his family, I watched the strangers who milled outside the church as we sat ensconced in the luxury of the limousine – each of us trapped in our misery. A small sigh escaped my lips when I recognized my family who had come to say good-bye to this wonderful man. They were like an island in my sea of agony. I knew I would be safe with them if only I could reach them.

We followed the hearse to the cemetery and I gave my arm to his mother as we walked behind the coffin. We stood beside the open mouth of the earth and I looked around. We had been here before to visit his father’s grave. Cid had stood next to me as he told me that he wanted to be buried on the hill overlooking the coulee. Instead, his mother had chosen a site opposite his father. It wasn’t on the hill where the sun shone and the coulee stretched away for miles. It was here, in this nondescript place. Not what Cid had wanted at all. I guess the dead have no choices. My heart felt like a stone and again I felt like a failure.

When the priest finished, I placed my hand on the top of the coffin and my tears dulled some of the gleam of the wood. “I love you Cid. I always will”. When I turned away I looked away over the hill and across the coulee. I hoped he heard me.

I was grateful that they didn’t lower the coffin into the ground as I stood there. I might have done the dramatic scene that we saw at the movies and thrown myself on top of the coffin as it sank into the earth. Instead, I found myself at the ‘head table’ with his mother and his uncle as everyone gathered for cake and tea. I could see my mother and brother with D and my cousin as they sat among the strangers and watched me. I had barely spoken to them and because Cid had asked me to help his mother, I stayed glued to my seat.

His mother sat with her shoulder turned away from me and when I tried to speak to her she tightened her lips and turned her head. When I laid my hand on her arm she pulled it away. If someone spoke to her, she barely nodded. I couldn’t understand why his family kept themselves so withdrawn from the people who had come to say good-bye to Cid. Their aloofness was so obvious that it made everyone in the room uncomfortable. People toyed with their cake and washed it down their dry throats with lukewarm tea. They spoke quietly among themselves as they eyed the three of us sitting behind our invisible wall. I remembered that Cid had said his family had come over from Italy and built themselves a place here all by themselves. They had never needed anyone, and even in their pain they weren’t going to let the barriers down.

Out of all of those people, one man came up to me and told me he had been Cid’s teacher at one time and he was one of the pallbearers. I didn’t realize at the time that I knew this man and his son. The son had worked for my brother as a guide and we had dated for a year and a half. The man’s name meant nothing to me that day and I didn’t realize who he was until three years later.

Then it was all over with and I had hugged my family and thanked them for coming and told them I would see them when I got home. My mother looked at me closely and asked me if I was all right. D hugged me hard, and he did it again. I could see that he had been crying and I leaned up against his chest and I could feel how warm his arms were as they wrapped around me once more. This man understood more than anyone else and how I wanted to stay inside that circle of his arms and give way to my grief.

When the limousine dropped us back at his mother’s house, I felt like my feet were made of lead. Inside the house his mother went directly to the couch and sat on it with her feet tight together and her lips matching. His uncle took the easy chair and said my name.

“We thank you for everything you have done for Cid. However, we want you to leave immediately. We are tired of you bossing us around and telling us what to do.”

31 comments:

travelling, but not in love said...

Aims, without all of the other madness that was going on around you - the italian family, the mother, the cheque on the day of the funeral - without all of this, burying someone you love is hard enough.

For you to do that AND put up with the rest of it? - well, that's what a great friend you are.

As an adult I hadn't been to a funeral and then in the space of two years I buried three grandparents and my father. Awful times.

But, as I'm sure you know, the future is a great place full of happy memories. Look forward to it. x

Daryl said...

Oh. My. God.


I do think I would have thrown the money at them .. told them off in great detail and then walked out without looking back.

:-Daryl

Leatherdykeuk said...

Unbelievable!
You did the best you could under very difficult circumstances.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

You have your memories. It is a lot more than they have.
This was beautifully told.
CJ xx

San said...

Such a maddening, hurtful thing for Cid's uncle to tell you.

A beautiful telling, Aims, of such a heartbreaking story you lived.

Akelamalu said...

Why is it that funerals bring out the worst in people? Even in grief people can be so cruel. It's like they think it's a competition - 'he loved us more than you' type of thing. You didn't deserve their scorn for loving Cid. I feel for you. x

CrazyCath said...

It is hard to remember that I am actually reading what happened to you my friend.
I think I would have thrown the money at them and gone. Such strength to write it all down.

Anonymous said...

Bossing them around? Oh, the nerve. And I hope you did just what they wanted. Margie

Valleys Mam said...

Grief is a strange thing, people are often not nice to each other at times when you think they would be close. I dont think Cid liked his mum much anyway. You dont have to like outlaws- its not compulsory.
You can be free of them anyway Aims

bermudabluez said...

Oh Aims, my heart goes out to you. What a difficult thing it must have been for you to write this. And what an absolutely awful way for them to treat you. Keep all those positive memories you have of Cid and you together and look forward to your future with hope. You have showed us all a tremendous amount of courage.

John-Michael said...

There is no prison gate so cold and unyielding, as a Closed Heart. And woe be to all who choose to imprison themselves in such a miserable incarceration. For there can never be any hope of pardon or early release. Cid's family are to be pitied. They are tragically sad people.

That your beautiful Soul has bloomed from the dung-heap of such a setting, speaks well of your character and determined resolve to Be this lovely woman that I am able to love ... and celebrate so happily.

Irene said...

Well, the best thing you could do was leave. What else was there to keep you? You needed to go home and be with your own family and not with these two confusing people. What did you hope to achieve there? They didn't know how to deal with you, Aims. They didn't know where you fit in Cid's life. Cid was responsible for that too. For not being clear about that. Time to go home now.

Brett said...

Stunned

Stinking Billy said...

aims, baby, that pair knew they had to shed some guilt somewhere, somehow, and the cheque plus their 'formal' thanks to you at the end was aimed only at salving their own consciences. Job done, the mother and uncle immediately forgot about Cid and his love for you, reverted to form, and sent you packing. Diabolical!

rosiero said...

Aims, such a devastating story. How you coped with Cid's family is beyond me. No wonder you were not looking forward to writing it.

Mima said...

How awful, I have no idea how you got through that day not just without anyone for you to lean on, but even more so with people being so cold and rude. He had lived a full life since his mother had last been in charge of him, and she should have respected his wishes not blatantly ignored them, I find that terribly sad and self-centered.

Olga/Maddie said...

This was all so heartbreaking to read through. And I can only imagine how so very difficult it was for you to write this.

Also, I can only imagine how extremely difficult it was to be at Cid's funeral.

Two things bothered me.

One was Cid's mother giving you that cheque right after you died. It made it seem like you were an employee doing a job and not a friend who so dearly loved her son that she wanted to fulfill his wishes.

Then when you went back to the house with them, the uncle thanked you and then told you off. It was like being nice at one moment and then taking it back with a slap in the face.

I know that they were grieving. But the rudeness, aloofness, and coldness of the two of them really got to me. And I'm so very sorry that you had to deal with that.

**Sends you many, many, many, many, many hugs.**

God bless and take care.
Olga/Maddie

softinthehead said...

Jealousy is a hideous emotion and that's obviously what these two felt about Cid's love for you and your love for Cid. They couldn't match up. I am sure that you have put it all behind you knowing you gave everything you could. Now you and The Man are happy together, what goes around comes around, Cid's Mum and Uncle should think on that. Love and hugs to you Aims - beautiful writing as always.

Melanie said...

After that sort of a day the best thing you could do was to leave.

When people die they have to rely on next of kin to carry out their wishes. Perhaps as his mother had always been wrapped up in herself she genuinely didn't know what Cid's wishes were so did the best she could. Grief does weird things. A slight word can turn into criticism.

You were in shock too. No one is normal in those circumstances. You did the best you could for Cid. You did more than your duty as you were there through love respect compassion and friendship. You honoured his memory that day and that is what mattered, not the little stuff.

Lane said...

It was time to leave them. You'd done everything you could.
You would have needed D, the barn and your family after that.

Maggie May said...

This must have been appalling. You got a raw deal.But you have the lovely memories that no one can take away.
This post is hard for me to read right now, as my SIL is at this moment dying.I have to face the funeral sooner or later too.

TSannie said...

Simply amazing a man as good as Cid came from such people.
What a wrenching tale - so beautifully told, Aims, and again I thank you for sharing it with me (and everyone else, of course). Thank you!!

BT said...

beautifully written as ever, Aims. How my heart ached for you. You are such a strong person to have put up with his mother and uncle. I guess they were hurting too and undoubtedly jealous of your relationship with Cid.
BT
xxx

lisaschaos said...

Well, it's over and yet it's not. I dated a man once, who killed himself shortly after we broke up, this brought back memories of his funeral. I know it's a totally different situation yet they were both gone, forever.

Maggie May said...

Was not offended Aims at your comment on my blog. There is a sequel to that post, if you want to see it.

dND said...

Tough times Aims. When my father died he left a note with instructions for his funeral. He said "funerals are for the living and we were to do what we wanted...

It is a thought to hold, Cid knew how much you cared about him and you will always have the wonderful memories of him and the happy times you shared. I expect that his relations will only have feelings of failure as their memories.

As a thought you could always sprinkle the grave with celandine, buttercup and dandelion seeds for yellow flowers.

Deborah x

A Spot of T said...

Tough. There's no doubt about it. Can you even imagine 'their' side of the story?? I shudder to think what it would be.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Oh aims, another agonising time for you. And to be so aware that none of it was what Cid wanted must have been torture for you.
All you can do is hold those memories of your times together in your heart. M xx

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