The twelve hour drive to Louisiana has always be long, but this time, it took forever. We all sat in silence for most of the trip. Once Lauren, who was three at the time, spoke. I looked back to see her in her car seat coloring in a coloring book with a serious look on her face.
"I am happy to be going to see MawMaw and PawPaw, but I am sad that I won't ever see Uncle Daren again."
(this is a photo of Lauren at about 1 year with Uncle Daren at about 16 or 17 years old.)
I knew then that she understood that death was final. I turned back toward the window and into myself and my grief. I pushed aside thoughts of what I would find when I arrived at my parents house. I didn't want to face them. I knew that they would be inconsolable. I knew they would be devastated.
The miles went by and there were times I just wanted to open the door and jump out and start running. I couldn't stand to just sit there, confined in the car. I felt that my pain was to great to be contained inside such a small space. I felt like I would explode...I prayed again for God to strengthen me...help me face what was to come.
We arrived at my parents house around ten o'clock that night. I could see the lights from a distance and I could see movement through the windows. It was apparent from the cars parked there, that there was a house full of people there with them. As I walked in the dark to the front door, a movement in the yard caught my eye. It was Kazan, Daren's dog. My breath caught, I had to take a moment to compose myself before entering into the house. Seeing Kazan reminded me so much of Daren, I had to push that aside and deal with the issue at hand...facing my parents.
Upon entering the house, I was greeted by several friends and family members. My parents were both lying on the bed, completely distraught and mourning. When my dad saw me, he said, "NO! NO!" and turned away from me. Knowing I was there, meant it was true, it was reality. I walked around to my mom and reached down to hold her. We both cried and she begin telling me about something...
Slowly, the friends and family left, returning to their lives and homes. But we were left there, to continue on in the nightmare that had become our lives.
Morning came, after a sleepless night, and we dressed to go to the funeral home to make the arrangements. As we entered I was greeted by a young woman and I told her who we were and why we were there.
"Would you like to view the body?" She asked, as thought she were offering coffee and a snack.
This completely caught me off guard. I couldn't think of seeing my brother now...We had so much to do; make arrangements, pick out a casket...I could feel my wall begin to break down.
"No, No, not now..." I choked out. "...Let's take care of everything first."
We were led into a large office in the back of the funeral home and a young man came in and greeted us. Offering his condolences and being very sensitive to our emotional conditions. We begin to go over the arrangements that my mom had written down. The funny thing about this was, in the weeks before Daren's death, my mom had felt impressed to write down funeral arrangements for herself. She showed them to Daren and told him that if something happened to her, that is what she wanted done. She didn't know that she would be using those arrangements for her son instead of the other way around.
Then came the time to pick out a casket. We were led into a room across the hallway and when the door opened and I saw a room full of caskets, my knees went weak. I stepped back away from the door and put my head into my hands and prayed again for strength. I steadied myself, turned and walked into the room. After a few minutes, I found the one I thought was right for him. It was lined in light blue and on the inside of the lid was embroidered, four flying birds, three were flying one way, and the fourth had turned and was flying away from the four. The text was "Going Home". I felt this was what was happening and it mirrored us.
With that done we were taken to a waiting area, where several friends and family members had gathered to meet us. I was numb and unable to talk to anyone. I sat alone, withdrawn and trying to process everything that had just happened.
They called us into the chapel area where they had him ready to be viewed by the family. I froze...I couldn't do this, I couldn't go into that room and see my brother, who was once so full of life lying there...dead! I couldn't do it.
After some time, my cousin came to me and put his arms around me and begin to talk to me. His mom had passed away a couple of years earlier and he had faced this same moment. He shared with me that when he did go in and see her, he felt a peace and knew that she was in a better place. He had been in to see Daren and told me that I would feel better once I saw him.
Until now, I hadn't thought about what he would look like. I had learned that he died from severe head trama when his head hit the windshield. I couldn't imagine what injuries he may have suffered that would make him look different. But there were none. The only visible evidence that he was in an wreck was a small cut on his chin. It was small, less than an inch long. His face was perfect, with no brusing or swelling. It looked as though he was lying there asleep.
I was escorted into the chapel by my cousin. He held me tight and walked and talked with me as we neared the casket. I felt weak and my mind was numb, I couldn't believe this was real. It must be a bad dream. It was what nightmares are made of. Nothing in your life ever prepares you for this moment. Death is as natural as life, but it is something we run from, something we don't want to have to face. Death is so final.
Only four months before, one of my co-workers had passed away from a heart attack. He was in his late 50's and it was so sudden. At that time I had written a poem about death and the finality of it. In the poem I wrote that our minds shouldn't be able to accept that someone we loved so dearly, someone that was there yesterday, was suddenly gone, gone forever...our human minds can't get a grasp on that, but somehow we do. It should be possible, but somehow we get up the next day and dress and put one step in front of the other. I don't remember the words I wrote, but just the idea that somehow, God allows us to heal, like taking a drink from a cup. When the sip is gone, there isn't a hole in the drink, just less drink. The other liquid comes together and fills the spot instead of leaving a visible empty spot. I wrote this from an outside prospective. I had not experienced it first hand. I had not experienced this great void left by losing someone so dear. It does leave a visible hole, an empty spot that nothing or no one can fill.
We stepped up to the side of the casket, and as I looked inside, I saw my precious baby brother lying there, as though he were asleep. His face looked so sweet, so innocent, so...perfect.
I begin to weep...the dam that had held back the emotional flood was weakening, and I could feel myself giving in to a break down. But just as quickly I remembered my parents who were standing nearby talking about something, anything to keep them from collasping onto the floor in a heap of grief. And I braced myself again, I prayed again for strength. I regained composure and made it though...
We left the funeral home and headed for the church. They were bring his body to the church for viewing and visitation for two days before the funeral. There were still many hours remaining before I could fall apart.
...to be continued on another post...