B is one of my best friends. His grandfather passed away Saturday morning. I've never met his grandfather, but I've known B for 17 years. He's like a brother. If he hurts, I will be there for him.
The wake was this morning. I didn't want to go. I really didn't want to go. It may have been selfish of me, but exactly one year ago my grandmother died, and the last thing I wanted today was to deal with funerals and death and any kind of grief. But, if one thing is sure about me, it's that I love my friends. I will get through my shit, put it aside, if I need to be there to help someone through their shit.
B’s family is Chinese and the wake is in the heart of Chinatown. If I didn't already feel out of place walking in that neighborhood, when I got to the funeral home I scanned the announcements board and all the names were in Chinese. Not that it would matter, since I don't even know B's grandfather's name.
I stood in the front hall feeling very confused and out of place. I hoped a recognizable face would walk by and I could follow them… anywhere but standing in this hallway. After a few minutes the funeral director noticed me standing there dumbfounded and asked if he could help. I stammered out my situation and he politely informed me that there was no wake today. Quite unable to comprehend what he was saying, I explained everything again. He assured me, again, that there was no wake today.
If it says anything about how messed up I was feeling at the moment I thought the funeral director must have lied to me because I was white. I stood outside the funeral home for another 15 minutes, until I allowed myself to realize this was my fault; that no funeral director would turn a mourner away because of the color of their skin.
I went about the rest of my day thinking, "I fucked up. B needed me today and I fucked up." Tonight I called up him. I asked how he was doing, and told him I how sorry I am for his loss, and that if he needs anything from me, I am here.
It didn't make a difference, really, but I felt the need to apologize for not being there today. I wanted him to know I wanted to be there, that I was thinking of him. When I finished explaining what happened that morning he said something that left me dumbfounded for the second time that day: "It's next week."
"Yes," he said, “the wake is next week.” And then he laughed at me. And I laughed too. I don't know if that was the first time he laughed since Saturday, but even if it wasn't, I'm glad I could do something for him. Even such a little thing. Even if it means I come out looking like a dork.
It's funny how silly mistakes like yours can make you think erroneous stuff like funeral directors are discriminating against you. Last night I saw a kid perched on the bagging area at the grocery store. He had that intent autistic stare thing going on. I thought, what kind of parent would leave their autistic kid there? Then I saw the Game Boy in his hands. Oops. Enjoyed the post.
by Anna at February 5, 2003 7:54 AM
My claim to fame is getting mad and yelling at cars not using their turn signals, only to realize it was a car in front of them that was turning. I don't know if this is at all related though.
mg, you are such a nice guy. Why am I suddenly drawn to you?...
by Linz at February 5, 2003 10:09 AM
I can dig it. I'd do anything for my buddies. I know funerals are hard which is why i wouldnt let my friends go through them alone either. I am reminded of a story. Time for a submission.
by eff at February 5, 2003 10:12 AM
I wonder if I look like that when I play my gameboy.
I'm pretty lucky when it comes to loss. I haven't had much experience with it. The one time that really stands out for me was about four years ago, my junior year in college. I was an RA in one of the dorms and the day after a long weekend I get a call from a friend of one of my residents. They tell me that he had died in a car accident that weekend. I was in disbelief and had to have the caller repeat what she said, and she started to cry.
It was my second year as an RA and It was going great. My floor was a tight-nit group with doors open all the time. Our community was so strong that most of the guys hung out together too much resulting in an average GPA of less than 2.0 for the floor. (We worked on that second semester.)
After I hung up the phone I suddenly know exactly what a heavy heart was. It was now my job to inform 50 guys that their friend had died. God, I didnít want to do it, but I didnít want them hearing it from the hall director in a floor meeting. I tried to tell everyone personally.
Telling his roommate was where I started and I think he already knew what had happened. I donít really remember that part but he came with me to tell the other guys and I was so glad that I didnít have to do it alone. I was really amazed at how everyone came together in the lobby and supported each other. It wasnít a sobbing wake of guys, it was really quiet with an occasional "God dammit " and a sympathetic "I know". There was the occasional awkward moment when someone would come out of the elevator and freeze seeing a group of guys sitting together not saying a word. Later, there was the official floor meeting with the hall director and the ice was broken allowing everyone to talk about it.
After writing all of this, I feel pretty good with the way everyone handled it. Afterwards or community was even stronger. More than half of my floor moved back the next year. Iím annoyed with myself right now because I canít remember the name of the guy who died.
by MrBlank at February 5, 2003 12:08 PM