In Memory


I haven’t been to a funeral in eleven years.

I realized this when I was rummaging through my closet to find a black dress. I wondered aloud, Well, what did I wear to the last funeral I went to? I couldn’t remember. It took me a minute to realize it was John’s funeral. My high school classmate who died in a freak car accident on the first day of our senior year.

Eleven years ago.

Eleven is quite a long stretch of time during which I did not lose a single person. Not in death anyway.

The funeral I was headed to this time wasn’t for someone close to me. It was for someone I had never met. I was going to my best friend’s sister’s funeral. She had taken her own life and I was flying to Pennsylvania to offer the only thing I possibly could—myself.

There’s nothing you can say to someone that has just lost a friend, a daughter, a mother, a sister. There’s nothing you can say to take away the pain, or even to quell it at all. There’s nothing you can do to convince them one day they really will feel okay again. One day they really will laugh again.

When I arrived in Lewisburg and saw Fern I embraced her, and immediately felt sick to my stomach. We were surrounded by her family. She is one of ten children and all of her siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews were present. I cannot begin to express to you the sickening, overwhelming feelings of loss, regret, guilt—pain that permeated the air from that moment through the following days.

I cannot comprehend such a loss. I tried to imagine my own sister in the coffin and I simply could not. Even still as I sit here and write it seems like a bad dream, just as Fern said.  It is unreal.

I told Fern I did not know what to say. I told her I did not know what to do. I told her I was not going to pretend to understand because I simply don’t. I told her I could offer an embrace, an ear, my presence. I told her between sobs that I’m sorry I cannot fix her. I told her that I’m sorry I can’t take away the pain.

Being in such an environment felt so foreign to me. Not because I was at a funeral, but because I was amidst broken people. I realized something quite eye-opening during that few days. I realized that I could not remember the last time I took on someone else’s pain.

I could not remember the last time I looked outside myself.

The last few months have been painful. I lost someone I cared deeply for and though not in death, it sure felt that way. It has been a crazy ride. At times I have grieved and at times I have been numb. I have been sorry and I have been pissed. I have felt anger and finally, I have felt Joy. But more than anything, I have thought only of myself. I have wallowed in my own pain and loss and misery for so long that I have been entirely unaware of anyone but myself.

And so, for Miriam. . .

Miriam. I did not know you and I will not pretend to. I do not know much about you at all because regrettably, I never got to meet you. But I did spend four days with your family as they mourned over you. So I can tell you what I saw.

I saw your mother, father, sisters and brothers sit on the front lawn for hours at a time talking about you. They talked about who you used to be. They talked about how you used to laugh. They talked about how at one time you were such a lover of life. They talked about how deeply you loved your daughters and what a good mother you were. They talked about how your daughters were your world, and it tore you apart that you could not be more a part of their lives. They talked about how they were sorry. For not trying harder. For giving up. They talked about how badly they wish you could come back. They talked about how they were all better people for having known you. They talked about your COURAGE.

Miriam. The world is a better place because of you. I know this as I said, not because I ever got the privilege of knowing you personally, but because I witnessed the legacy you left behind. Your daughters will be treasured, and everyone in your family will live a fuller, truer, braver life from knowing you.

Thank you for teaching my sweet Fern to be brave. And thank you for teaching Me how to look outside myself.
"Comes And Goes (In Waves)"
-Greg Laswell-

This one's for the lonely, the one's that seek and find
Only to be let down time after time
This one's for the torn down, the experts at the fall
Come on friends get up now you're not alone at all

Oh oh oh, oh oh oh
Oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh

And this part was for her
And this part was for her
This part was for her
Does she remember?

It comes and goes in waves

This one's for the faithless, the ones that are surprised
They're only where they are now regardless of their fight
This one's for believing if only for it's sake
Come on friends get up now love is to be made

Oh oh oh, oh oh oh
Oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh

And this part was for her
And this part was for her
This part was for her
Does she remember?

It comes and goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
It comes in goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
Why I, why I try

This is for the ones who stand
For the ones who try again
For the ones who need a hand
For the ones who think they can

It comes and goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
It comes and goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
Why I, why, why I fly