Last week I attended what I thought was my first funeral since Erik’s funeral. As I was driving up this cemetery hill something looked all too familiar. Then the flashback came. My cousin and I had driven up a similar hill for another funeral just a little over a month after Erik’s passing. I couldn’t believe that my mind had just completely blocked that out. It comes to show how much of a blur everything was and might still be.
This funeral hit a little closer to home. It was a full catholic funeral similar to Erik’s. I had thought that it would be a little easier seeing as I was more detached from this loss and I was there more so to show respect and to support our close friends. That was not the case.
The tears started falling before I even got to my seat. This took me back to Erik’s funeral. Although that day is still very hazy, what I do remember is thinking this can’t be true. It’s not my husband in that casket. I’m not walking in behind him with our kids to each side of me.
The planning was just as hard. I never expected, at 29 to have to plan a funeral for my husband. My cousin and I sat in a conference room at the mortuary as they handed us a binder. They told me to choose a casket. Type of wood, color, lining, design, emblems, and everything in between. Then they handed me another binder. “Here are the flower choices,” they said. With every flip of the page, I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I was sitting here picking out flower arrangements for your casket when just a few months before we were picking out flower arrangements for our vow renewal. It was just all eerily too similar yet couldn’t be more different.
This funeral took me back to everything leading up to Erik’s funeral. The funeral arranger I was working with was amazingly empathic and so easy to work with. I wanted to see Erik before he was embalmed and with all the hoops we had to jump through, he was able to make it happen. This was probably the hardest part of the journey of putting Erik to rest. I wanted to see him before all the makeup and retouches. I wanted to see him as him. With his color still there. Which also meant seeing the wound as is. I was allotted 10 minutes to see him. The door opened and I dropped. Barely even seeing his body laying on a metal table at the far end of the room the tears came streaming out. I finally made my way to the end of the room where he lay. I put my hand over his but all I felt was the cold from the ice he was laying on. I remember every single detail of how he looked, even his messed up hair, which if anyone knew him would know that he would have woken up to say “I can’t believe they messed up my hair and left it like that!”. I remember every detail of the room we were in, the color of the floor, the lamp in the corner, the sofa at the opposite end of the room. I even remember the color of the blanket that was laid over him. The blanket that I laid my head on to feel his chest one last time. It was Erik. My Erik. He looked as if he was just sleeping. And all I wanted to say was “Wake up sweetheart” as I held his face in my hands. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to stay there with him. Yet I knew I had to leave. I knew I was long past my 10 minutes and I knew the funeral arranger did not want to make me leave even after I had been there for nearly 40 minutes. But it was time. And the memory I have of seeing Erik that day will forever be in my mind.
As I drove home from this funeral I couldn’t help but remember the end of Erik’s. I stood there, long past when everyone had left, waiting for them to lower him into the ground. It still didn’t feel real. It still didn’t hit me that it was my husband in that casket that I had chosen. It still wasn’t a reality for me yet. Almost a year and 5 months later and I still sometimes can’t believe this is reality. My reality.