What was odd is that it wasn’t chilly. It was a February morning in Seattle and I remember not being cold. All the more odd because I’m always cold. Always. I can’t remember if it was sunny, but I know it wasn’t raining. Again, odd for Seattle on a February morning. February 12, 2012, to be exact.
I was wearing a black cotton spaghetti strap, v-neck dress with a satin lining that flowed over me knees. I’m not sure where I got it, because it was already in my closet and I hadn’t worn it often. It was a summer dress. I wore a black shawl over my shoulders and black patent leather heels. No pantyhose. Does convention still call for them? I was young enough not to care. I put on a black 1920s style cloche hat to hide my face. I had gotten it on vacation a couple of years earlier. I didn’t want to look at anyone and I didn’t want them looking at me. I wanted to shrink into that hat completely.
I can’t remember most of it, the funeral. I do remember someone telling me it was beautiful. I wanted to punch them in the face. I remember someone else telling my they had never seen a coffin so small. Again, mental face punch. Then, someone told me I was beautiful. Actually several people did. But someone told me it was the most beautiful I had ever looked. Really? At my daughter’s funeral? Jerk.
I don’t even remember who it was. I just remember thinking that maybe I was little more beautiful at my senior prom…or my wedding…or basically any other day than this.
They just wanted to be nice. I know they did. I don’t blame them. I don’t even count it as ignorant or outplaced. I was simply being swallowed alive in that moment by the death and subsequent burial of my daughter. All-in-all, I think I’ve held it together pretty well.
There were so many people there. I felt their eyes all over me and it burned. I didn’t look around. I will never know who actually was there, or how many people in total, but I know the cemetery was full.
Our preacher said some words. I think my brother lead a prayer. I said nothing. I watched as they lowered my daughter’s body into the hole previously dug for her. I wasn’t sure what to do. Was that it? Was it over? What did I do now? Just leave? How? How could I just go? Once I left, that was it. Never a reason to return. The last that remained of her physical being was gone from me forever. How could it be? How, after the years of caring for her day in and out, providing for her every need twenty-four hours a day, could I just go?
What mother leaves her baby cold in the ground and just walks away?
One face stood out to me. A friend, who was a light in the darkness of my day. She didn’t speak. She simply walked up to me and her searching eyes said everything there were no words for as she pressed her lips together and stared into my soul. I was grateful for her understanding, and though our eyes met, I was silent in my reply.
I don’t have the dress anymore. I don’t know where it went. Did I give it away to Goodwill? I think I did, but I don’t remember doing so. I knew I would never wear it again. The shoes and shawl are both gone. I will never wear the hat again, either, but it I still have. I see it in the back of my closet, a grim reminder of the one and only time it adorned my head. I don’t take it out. Sometimes it topples over when I’m digging for a pair of shorts or an old purse. And I remember.