The line snakes through the room, rounding several tables before making its way out the door and into the lobby. We join, three hushed adults with one child clinging nervously, the other three reading books in a corner. The boys are wearing the suits they wore for the wedding two weeks ago. Today their finery is worn for a much sadder occasion.
While we wait to offer our condolences, three tables in the room offer entertainment, if one can say that. A table in the middle is adorned with an engraved baseball bat, Mr. H's umpire uniform, a baseball written on by another neighbour, plaques from the association he served with, and a book on umping that he wrote. Another table is piled with yearbooks, genealogy books, his thesis, his autobiography and his various diplomas. I smile at the old family picture, admiring the dated glasses and hairstyle and my friend as a child. It's remarkable how much his son looks like him. Still another table sports art the grandchildren made in memory of their grandfather as well as his Bibles, a book he and his wife translated into English and some quizzes made up for his 70th birthday and their 40th wedding anniversary.
I managed to hold it together until the very end of the line up and lose it completely while at the casket. As a family we gather to say goodbye to Mr. H, me spontaneously offering up a prayer in thanks for his life. We move away after a few minutes, preparing to head home and then out again. I catch sight of a friend and then spy Veronica in line, alone. After checking with Steve, I offer to stay and head back through the line. I bawl again.
Then off we head to a farm. Aris and I change in the house before striding down the hill to where the rest are gathered. I sit around a pond, while corn and sausages roast over the fire. It's beautiful. The food is good. We pull out leftover cake, blueberry squares, apple squares and Neapolitan ice cream. Everyone sings happy birthday to me. I smile, feeling loved. Conversation bubbles up around me, my children choosing to go wrestle somewhere else as per my suggestion.
Coming home, I wander over to Keesha's house. Veronica and I babysit so the other adults can go the visitation. I play silly games with the babies, especially the ones I don't know as well. By evening's end, those two are my good friends. My daughter wrestles with the children when she isn't watching Backyardigans. I get them to chase her, and they run circles through the house giggling madly. To settle them down, she gets them to lie on the floor and then leads a yoga relaxation. She teaches well. I am amused, seeing my teacher's style in her imitation. The evening ends well.
It's been a full day, grief interwoven with beauty, community, good food and silliness. My tears keep coming. Tomorrow we will attend the funeral. I think I'm going to cry a lot. I'm not a cryer so this has me a wee bit concerned. My in-laws are probably a bit more concerned as they're babysitting six kids tomorrow, three three year olds, two 16 months olds and one six year old. They're pretty brave. Somehow, we'll all get through tomorrow.