Nobody wants to go to a funeral. Funerals are tough. They tear out your insides and leave you raw.
Especially this one.
And for a day or two, just so I wouldn’t have to face the painful task of mourning her, I thought that I could justify not going. I’m 1,200 miles away. There would be hundreds of people there. What difference would I make?
But then the phone calls, emails and text messages started coming. With all of the disbelief and the sadness also came multiple refrains of “I love you” and “Can’t wait to hug you”.
And in the process of connecting with my friends, women I have known for upwards of 25 years, I realized that I had no choice but to be there. For Martha but also for me.
I chided myself for being a coward and flew up to New York on Thursday.
And Thursday night, we all sat around the table in my friend MG’s apartment. Being together. Mourning together. Crying, laughing, telling Martha stories.
Drinking multiple bottles of red wine. Nibbling on cheese and salami. Eating two types of pasta. And, of course, lots of sweets.
Thinking that Martha should be walking through the door at any moment because she wouldn’t have missed this get-together of friends from different parts of the country. Commenting at how pissed she must be that we were all there and that she wasn’t. Looking for signs that she was there. A broken glass, a fallen chair, blueberries scattered all over the kitchen.
The service was the next afternoon.
The church was packed. Overflowing even.
And we sat in the pew, me and my friends, sobbing and holding on to one another.
Awful. Horrible. Tragic. There are those words again. None of them coming close to describing the emotion that is still boiling up inside of me.
For me, there is no justification for her death. That’s not where I am with this.
Saying “It was God’s will” doesn’t help me. And it wasn’t her time to leave us. It couldn’t have been her time. She was one of the good ones. The special ones.
She had so much life left to live. So much to give. She had two kids.
I left Brooklyn Saturday morning.
My friend MG walked me down to the end of her street. Put her hand up for a cab. Opened the door for me. We hugged hard and said we loved each other.
I threw my carry-on in to the cab and slid in.
She closed the door behind me.
She stood on the corner while the cab waited at the red light. After I told the cab driver I was going to LaGuardia, he looked at MG and then caught my eye in the rear-view mirror and said to me, “She must be a good friend. Maybe your sister?”
I responded, “Yes, she is. The best of friends. Like a sister. I’ve known her for 30 years. But how did you know that?”
He said, “Because she’s standing there, in the cold, waiting for you to leave. Making sure you are okay.”
And the tears started flowing again.
They’re flowing now.
We will keep making sure that each other is okay. And we will all be closer because we said goodbye to Martha together.
But we’ll never be the same.