Thursday, February 07, 2008

After the End-Epilogue

Sitting on an airplane, flying back to New York after the trip home to say goodbye to Christopher. Funerals and viewings make a lot of people uncomfortable but they are important rituals that need happen. It is the final celebration of a life, a celebration that every human being deserves. To be honored with dignity and warm words no matter how long or short, happy or sad a life. It is also a time for family and friends to write tributes to the departed and speak for no priest can capture the life of someone they did not know. That’s why I wrote what I wrote for my dear friend Chris.
I still don’t believe that he is gone. We all kept saying to each other, “OK, when am I going to wake up”, or “When is he going to get up out of that casket?” It would be just like Chris to pull off such a macabre stunt like this, appearing from the back of the church, walking down the aisle to see who his real friends are. But alas, his hands were cold, his body stiff as a board, his face a frozen, made up mask of peaceful rest. I made him a special photo button of the five of us: Carla, Chris, Eric, Tamara, and myself with the words “Friends 4 Ever” written on which I pinned to his lapel. As I pinned it on his lapel I did so with trepidation, waiting for him to open his eyes like a slumbering vampire to scare the shit out of me. While I wanted this happened, it didn’t, and instead I was comforted by the fact that his oldest and closest friends are with him, next to his heart that used to beat strongly and loved so much.
My years at PS 42 trained me for viewings (we went en masse to them when a colleague’s mother or relative died). Some of my friends were uncomfortable with the whole thing but I encouraged them to come see him, weird as it may seem. Wakes/viewings are important rituals, a chance to say goodbye, visit with friends and family and being in the presence of the departed one last time. The hard part was leaving at the end of the viewing for that’s the last time you can see them. Once the casket is closed, that’s it. We friends were the last to leave and as we were all trying to leave, tears galore, I decided we needed to do a groin pull for Chris. Groin pulls are a 4-step movement which ends with grabbing your crotch, something that Chris made up and we all did in our crazy youth. So all of us lined up in front of him and with a one-two-three-four, gave our dear friend a big chorus line groin pull one last time. The staff of the funeral home was a bit taken back but we didn’t care, we needed to do it. Believe me it helped elevate the sad mood and was closure for all of us.
The Catholic funeral mass with rosary to start was so un-Chris, yet so Chris. The chanting, candles, flowers, music, incense were a great dramatic touch, the grand finale to a dramatic life. The blah-blah-blah of the priest and the very dry eulogy to Chris, was the un-Chris part. I’m glad I got up to speak for my friend, for if I didn’t the whole affair would have been so grim and sad. He was about happiness, not sadness. My eulogy came from the heart, and captured the essence of Chris; his humor, craziness and generosity. Not to brag, but I had them laughing and crying at the end. It was a great eulogy for a great friend and lifted the mood of the church from sadness to wacky happiness—the way he would want it.
His coffin was a navy blue with a seagull motif. I guess they wanted to tie in the fact he was a flight attendant with something aerial. Inside the lid was a flock of seagulls and the words “Going Home”. I got into the seagulls and maybe I’ll be inspired to put them in my art as a tribute. As we said goodbye to him at the cemetery, a Northwest plane flew over as if in tribute to one of its former flight attendants. The cemetery entombment was short yet poignant. The last time we will be near Chris. Once we left, they put him in his tomb in the wall and there he will rest forever. At least we know where he is from now on.
I took three roses from his floral spray on his coffin. A reminder of what I just went through as I make my way home, back to New York, back to reality. I strapped them on to my messenger bag for a bit of flair, for all to see. The day before the funeral, Tamara, Jenna, Linda and I went for pedicures. A little glamour for our glamorous friend. I opted for the outlandish blue glitter toe nail polish in his honor. The nail technician (I believe that’s the term they use these days) was a bit surprised but I didn’t care. It was what I wanted and seemed as normal as can be. Just like Chris would do.
Tomorrow is the start of Chinese New Years. Now that this is all over and Chris has been laid to rest, it’s time to start the new year finally. I am full of new energy and optimism. I feel Chris’ enthusiasm in me and am ready for new challenges in this year. Maybe I’ll just have to go down to Chinatown tomorrow and ring in the new year with my PS 42 colleagues. To mark the end of something and the beginning of something new. Chris would like that.


Eric Welsh said...

Well, I am glad I made it into the casket with Chris. Thanks.

sharon said...

random...yet not so much.
the day Christopher passed(not yet knowing at the time)I took my lunch break at the end of Sunset I sat there a seagull stood at the edge of the cliff looking at us as we ate our lunch...I joked with my co-worker about how if Christopher had passed...maybe he was now the seagull before us trying to get our attention...because it looked so beautiful perched against the blue sky and ocean...i took a picture...after I returned to work a short time later i found out Christopher had passed away. So, when I went to his funeral and saw the seagull on the casket...i smiled inside.

sharon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharon said...

here is the picture I took that beautiful day.