Greetings, Friends ~
Though the whirlwind of my career and commitments seems consuming lately, I am still writing. It is hard work finalizing a book, especially given the topic. I am doing it anyway. The most difficult writing is behind me, and I am focused more now on the positive messages of light and hope for recovery from such traumatic incidents. That is a good place to be.
This is an excerpt from one of the more difficult chapters. It is not yet formally edited.
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On New Year’s Day 2011, two days after learning of my son’s death, I sat in a funeral home wondering how I wound up here. There were coffins and urns surrounding the table where my mother, sister, daughter and I had been seated. I remember it as the darkest and most surreal place I had ever been. I was told later it was very nice. I do not remember it that way.
Unable to do much of anything on my own, I could not have driven myself. I was unable to make the appointment or even see a reason to show up. My family had explained to me that there were decisions to be made, papers to sign, and cash to be fronted. For this, we had to meet with the funeral director and take care of those pressing matters. In his line of work, it was another day at the office. To me, it was the worst parental torture I could have ever imagined.
We were in a room that was like a shopping center for the dead. The smells were all wrong. The death-like displays seemed to purposefully taunt me, almost jumping off the walls. And it was horrifying knowing my son lay lifeless behind one of the closed doors down the haunted hallway within my view.
As we sat there in what I remember as “the coffin room”, the funeral director spoke. I am told he was gentle, but direct. Regardless, I received his words as a series of emotional assaults, one after another. I wanted no part of engaging with him for any reason.
In heavy grief herself, Annette looked at me in that older sister way and waited for a signal that I was tracking with her. Patiently and slowly, she translated everything he said into shorter, more manageable sentences. I nodded to let her know I understood. Smooth as habit, she looked back at the funeral director and waited for more information so she could repeat the process.
I kept mentally checking out, my mind reviewing my list of responsibilities as Lewis’ mother. Over and over, I thought about every moment that led me there. I was his guide. He was my son. I brought him onto this planet, and he should have lived out his life. It was my job to help positively shape him and prepare him for adulthood. Yet there we were, discussing things that should have forever been left unsaid.
Over many years, I had worked hard to maintain a good career with a stable paycheck. I had put myself through college – twice. I paid my bills on time and was as fiscally responsible as any single mom could be. I had consistently helped Lewis through his college years while supporting his sister through high school. I taught my kids to treat others well, and apologize if they hurt someone. My to-do list as a parent seemed solid, especially in recent years. Like all parents, I had made my share of mistakes. But my mindset was to correct the wrongs and set things right again along the way. I had done that, too. I had given this parenting role my very best.
No matter. It all meant nothing now. Karma had fallen asleep with God as I sat there trying to answer questions that would bankrupt even the most responsible among us. I did not want to think about money at a time like this, but the system forced it. Like everything about the past few days, I was ill-prepared.
Looking around that heavy-with-darkness room, I knew the years of my hard work came down to one harsh reality. I could not afford to bury my own son. Those moments made me feel like I was the biggest failure of all parents everywhere. Not only had my son chosen to leave life, but I could not even pay for his exit.
The world had never seemed more broken.
Having been advised not to view Lewis’ body, I tried to focus on my sister, daughter and mother. I listened to Annette as she continued to translate questions. I silently pleaded with God that if he ever existed, I would wake up. Now.
One after another, documents continued to appear before me. Annette was strong and her process was streamline. “Just sign here. Here. And…here.” I obeyed.
Fighting severe nausea, those closed doors down the hallway kept catching my attention. Like a record with a skip, my thoughts went from Annette, to the pen and paper before me, and then back to those rooms. Which one was he in? Lying there…alone. Cold. Lifeless.
In another moment, my mind returned to the gripping feeling of guilt about money, mistakes, and things that can never be undone. Despite feelings that were too severe for even the most balanced person to manage effectively, the world expected me to keep pace with the process of final arrangements. Fortunately, my family was able.
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Copyright 2013, Jana Brock. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
Just Keep Breathing (Excerpt)
Author: Jana Brock
I remember this day so well. I can’t think of any other time I have been in this position, helping with final arrangements for a loved one, that the impact even came close to the horrible events that had led us to this funeral parlor. I, too, wondered where Lewis was and had the underlying need to see him one last time, but it wasn’t proper. We had been advised not to view his remains. It will be three years come December since his passing. I still expect him to come through the door and ask for a bowl of cereal. He never does and will not do so again in my lifetime.
A sobering and life-changing time for all of us, for sure. It changed everything…forever.
I see no wrong in not being able to afford to bury your son. For someone your age and his, who plans for that? Don’t beat yourself up! It was a beautiful service!!!
Thank you, Krista. In our case, we both had policies – neither paid. His policy he carries with his employer did not pay because of how he died. Mine on him did not pay basically, long story, but because of an error made administratively by the system. But it was a beautiful service, I am told (I recall little of that day).