I was only home a day when I received the call that the funeral arrangements had been made. Cid’s body had been transported to Lethbridge and his uncle and mother had made all the arrangements. Now his uncle was asking me to come down before the funeral and stay at the mother’s house.
The sun sparkled off the snowy fields and I was reminded of how cold the earth was in February. Cid had made this drive countless times and I tried to see the landscape as he had. The fields stretched off to the west – vast expanses of white. Their sheer vastness butted up against the magnificence of the snow covered Rocky Mountains that stood up stark and hard against the blue bowl of the prairie skies. I tried to see this beauty through Cid’s eyes. I tried to experience the wonder of southern Alberta as he might have as a child; fresh from Italy and afraid. But it was hard to see through my tears.
My stomach was a cold hard knot and it clenched as I walked up to the front door of his mother’s house. The uncle opened the door and Cid’s mother gave me a stiff hug before turning away. I often wonder if there is any pain greater than a mother’s when she loses a child.
After I was settled, I met them both again in the kitchen and we tried to eat a little something before we had to go for the viewing at the funeral home. It was difficult to keep up some pretense of a conversation as we watched the minute hand inspect all the points on the clock. When Cid’s mother went to lie down, I found a quiet spot in the recreation room and wrapped myself in a blanket – and cried. I felt like Catherine from Wuthering Heights as I called and called for Cid in my mind – but like Heathcliff - he never came.
The three of us dressed and as one we walked silently to the car and drove to the funeral home. I didn’t think it was possible, but that cold hard fist in my stomach tightened even further as we walked towards the front door, and I suddenly realized I was afraid. The funeral director met us and shook our hands and ushered us towards the room that held Cid’s body.
My knees started to shake and I thought I was going to faint as we walked up that long aisle towards the casket. The cloying scent of flowers almost made me swoon but all I was aware of was the casket with the lid propped open – and Cid. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to keep walking until I stood beside him and looked at that face that I loved so much. I couldn’t stop the tears and I reached out and laid my hand on his cheek and whispered, “Oh Cid”.
I don’t know how much time had passed before I noticed that I was standing at the casket by myself. I turned and looked behind me and saw Cid’s mother leaning heavily on the arm of her brother, watching me. I felt horrible and didn’t know if I had committed a faux pas, and I put a weak smile on my face and motioned for them to join me. I could see that his mother was close to collapsing and I took her other arm and helped her to stand as we stood beside the casket. I don’t know who loved him the most, but the three of us stood there and wept.
I kept telling myself that he wasn’t here anymore, but he looked like he was. Just asleep. I kept telling myself that he was with me - but there was that space between again. I kept telling myself that my heart was still in one piece – it really was – but it felt ragged and torn and I thought it was weeping too. I felt like my whole life lay there with Cid and I dreaded the next day.
We sat in the front row and watched as friends came and looked down at Cid’s body before they came and whispered to his mother. I almost held my breath when Cid’s ex-fiancée brought her 2 children and stood beside the coffin. I knew how much she had hurt him. I knew she had been cruel and uncaring towards him – even when she knew he had cancer and was in pain. I remembered when he offered me the diamond ring she had worn and I had told him to give it back to her. She had told him it wasn’t the same without him attached to it, but she took it. Something to remember him by. She wouldn’t look at me when she came to whisper to his mother and all I could do was shrug my shoulders. Wasn’t it time to give this nonsense up?
Still – we sat there. Mostly in silence. For what seemed like an eternity. I could barely tear my eyes away from his face knowing that once they closed that lid he would be gone forever.
But finally it ended and we drove back to the mother’s house in silence. Later, Cid’s uncle said there was a van sitting out front of the house and he went outside to investigate. He came back in and told us the ex-fiancée was outside but wouldn’t come in because I was there. I threw my hands in the air and got in my car and went for a drive.