The morning felt equally hectic though before long Mark and I were heading to the mortuary. We were some of the earlier people on the scene so it was nice to see Richard (my uncle) and Troy (my cousin.) I had been stunned by the news of her death but it wasn't until we actually walked into the viewing room that I felt myself tear up. I gave my uncle a hard hug and then a longer one to Troy (who incidentally looks like he could be related to Hagrid, I kid you not, so he's great to hug. Makes you feel like you're 4 years old hugging that tree of a man.)
Her mom showed me Leelyn's drawings...chock full of anime which ordinarily drives me up the wall but she was a fairly gifted artist. I had to tell my brain to quit looking at the pictures and think, "Oh...she needs to work on line quality...the structure is good but the drawing comes out flat," "ah, she's cheating feet." or "I know what she WANTS to do here...I should show her how to do that..." Her mom told me they offered to send her to art school...
More and more people started showing up...my cousin Clark (Troy's brother,) who has sort of been turned into the family "Speaker for the Dead," He looked weary but cracked wise how this particular mortuary should offer frequent flyer miles or something. Mark quipped, "Yeah...12th funeral is free!"
Clark also said something sobering about funerals for him is looking around and seeing all these friends and relatives...and then wondering who is next. Because someone always IS next.
Leelyn looked pretty good. Nobody EVER looks "just like they're asleep," but she looked, as I said, pretty good. Mom told me her mom and grandma had done a bit of shopping a few days before and picked out an outfit for her. I think it would be one of the hardest things a parent would have to do is prepare and dress their child for their funeral.
We sat at the back because Suzanne was running late and we wanted to make it easy for her to just come in and slip in with us.
Her grandmother (my aunt,) spoke and shared memory after memory of Leelyn and then her mom and sister (which, man, I could never do!) shared more and more. Leelyn did things her own way. She loved animals. She was a talented artist, She was stubborn. I thought about something Mark had said earlier in his live journal... She was certainly a member of "our tribe. The sharing went on and with such enhusiasm that I began to feel vaguely uncomfortable. I don't know...
I thought that maybe one reason they went on so long and were as chipper as they were was because when they finally sat down...it would be more real. Not sure...I'm still pondering it all. How do you sum up your child's life? What stories do you share? What ones do you omit? Do you share all of them? What if you remember a precious one that you didn't share? She then got a little more... sober... (more on that later,)
My cousin Clark though, for me, really nailed the proceedings. He was compassionate but also very real. There in that casket was a very troubled girl...and every single one of us feels sorrow and loss and tragedy and anger and maybe blame. But he also quote some scriptures from the bible which right now I'm blanking on but the summation was...The Lord requires us to forgive others...and we should also forgive ourselves.
He read an essay she had written a few months previous about who her hero was. It was one of those frank, honest, melodramatic and cutting essays only teenagers can write. She talked about how pessimistic she felt, how lonely she was, how there was such despair for her. She talked about the relationship with her sister, how often they fight, how at times she wished she was an only child...and how lonely she would be without her sister...who was the one person she felt like she could really be herself around, that could put up with her, that they shared so many of the same interests and how when all was said and done it was her sister who was her hero.
I wondered how Emmy felt, hearing that essay being read at her big sister's funeral...who committed suicide and left Emmy to find her and to carry on without her.
I thought what Christie had said as she closed her memories of Leelyn. She said how grateful she was for Troy...how compassionate and loving he was and how he never complained. When they decided Leelyn needed private school, $160.00 an hour sessions She said she felt like everything they could've done they did. And while I can't fathom how tragic it would be to lose a child, especially under those circumstances...if you truly believe in that comforting thought ... that you did everything you could possibly do... you are well on the road to healing.
They have to go home to Kentucky now...leaving her buried so close to her "Favorite Uncle Briant" that you could see part of the lid of his outer casket next to hers when it had been lowered into the ground and go through all her early possessions and I expect the sadness is going to come in waves.
Clark said that it is his family's sad experience that the pain eases to a dull ache but it never ever goes away.