Saturday, August 14, 2010
‘Reserved for Family’
The Funeral, Saturday morning
I arrived at the funeral home around 9:30 that Saturday morning, giving me enough time to settle in, calm my nerves and share pleasantries with folks I did and didn’t know before my father’s 11 a.m. funeral service.
Nods and friendly smiles were exchanged with his family, who occupied the first few rows of the left side of the chapel in pews that bore signs reading “Reserved for Family.”
Those rows were starting to fill. And well, I just didn’t want to open that can of worms.
So, I sat down on the opposite side, fourth row. The first two rows on this right side had signs reading “Reserved for Pall Bearers.” The third simply said “Reserved.”
As the time for the service neared, I got up to use the restroom, leaving my purse so no one would take my seat.
When I returned, I found my purse had a new butt sitting very close to it, so I turned around to survey my options.
The chapel was full.
I quietly grabbed my purse and slipped onto the end of the empty third “Reserved” row. A few minutes later, a white-haired funeral home worker leaned to whisper in my ear.
“Ma’am, are you with the Guard?” he asked, referring to my father’s prison co-workers.
“No,” I answered, hoping he’d say it was OK and just walk away.
“Well, are you family?” he asked.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
I looked toward Luke on the front row of the family section, hoping he would save me, but he couldn’t see what was happening.
“Ma’am, are you part of this man’s family?” he asked, a little more stern this time.
“Actually, I’m his daughter,” I said, my voice starting to break.
“Well, then, why don’t you go sit with the family?”
“I don’t want to sit with the family, sir.”
God, please just go away. Please. People are watching.
“I’m sorry if that’s a strained situation,” he said. “Why don’t you just sit on the front row then?”
Dear God, please make me invisible, I prayed. Or, I could just leave. Yes, I’ll just walk out instead of getting kicked out of my seat at my father’s funeral.
“OK, I’ll go to the front,” I said as I grabbed my purse.
He sat me on the end of the front row, one marked “Reserved for Pall Bearers,” which made no more sense to me than where I was before.
Tension made its way up my neck. I couldn’t look back. The whole chapel had just seen what had happened.
Oh my God, Misty. Do not cry. Just look at the casket and do NOT cry.
Out the side of my tear-filled eye, I saw someone walking toward me.
“Come on,” said Paula, Dad’s brother’s wife.
I looked up, and she had her hands held out for me.
“Come on, you’re sitting with the family.”
I grabbed my purse with one hand, and her hand with the other, and tears started to slip down my cheeks with every step to the “Reserved for Family” section.
I sat on the second row, beside Cousin Tawna.
Uncle Charlie and my brother, Luke, both turned around from the front row and put their hands on me.
And I started to sob in my first real cry since I’d been home for the funeral.
To be continued …