I went to a wake yesterday. It was awful...forty something, married, kids, sudden and unexpected. Too soon, too young. So very, very sad.
On the receiving line, I watched. She was strong, eloquent, beautiful, the epitome of class, all the while suffering through an unimaginable pain. People said they were sorry. They said they'd be there to help out and console. They said they understood, as they clasped the hand of their partner and moved on down the line.
And I thought, no they don't. They couldn't possibly.
But I do.
I watched my mother walk that awful path. A former model and actress, waif thin at forty eight years old, with short, bleach blonde hair, greeting people in a black cowl neck dress and gold jewelry in that exact same room more that thirty years ago. Thank you for coming, it means a lot, embracing, weeping, promises of companionship from friends and neighbors. Reading mass cards and flower tags, she watched them file out in pairs and then went home alone to an empty bed, cold toes, two young children and a business not built for a woman to run.
Yet she did. She had no choice.
It was one foot in front of the other into uncharted territory while her girlfriends continued to shop, lunch, cook, clean and cuddle.
She never married again. She dated once or twice, but nothing compared to what she'd lost and so she stayed single. Forever. The promises of eternal friendship faded rather quickly. Good intentions were always there, but life was different now. Most of her girlfriends were housewives. She was a working woman. Friday nights the girls gossiped in one room while the boys played poker in the other and Saturday was date night. Being a fifth wheel was no fun and no fun to watch across the table. Conversations were measured. Her tablemates worried about being too happy. She worried about being too sad. Eventually the invites stopped coming.
I sometimes wondered if she was more upset or more relieved.
Making new friends wasn't so easy either though. Aquaintances who had been divorced didn't share the same pain. Loneliness yes, but it was different being torn apart suddenly, when neither party wanted to be separated. Her heart ached and she had been gutted. It was so obvious, that even at twelve, I understood that if it were not for us, she would've crawled into the ground next to him.
And while people felt bad for her, they expressed the most sorrow for us. Those poor kids growing up without a father. I get it. I was that kid and I missed my dad terribly. My whole world collapsed the day he died, but as I grew, the reality of her situation sunk in. She had lost her partner, her best friend, her dinner companion, her travel buddy, her lover, her soulmate.
Children grow up and into a life of their own. They go off to college, get married, move away and leave you alone with your partner.
And that's all I could think about from the moment I heard the news.
And I understood.
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