Things are getting back to normal. The day of the funeral was hard, but cathartic. Nobody really gave a shit about holding back, or being strong for anyone else, or any of that other macho bullshit we spout off about when somebody dies. We all cried. A lot. Then the Methodist church fed the entire family. A lot.
I’ve been gone from that small town for my entire adult life (whenever that began, or if it has yet), but I will always have a sense of belonging there. It’s where, as we say down here, my people are from. After the funeral, where my uncle was laid to rest in a plot immediately beside my brother-in-law, I took Suzy on a walk through the cemetery and introduced her to some of my people.
My family has been a part of that community pretty much since it was a community, and a large portion of the front row of tombstones bear my name. I walked her over to Aunt Julia, who was the first person I ever knew that died, when I was 8. She spoiled me terribly, and when she died, her daughter Marian told me that I could pick out one thing from her house to remember her by. I have those porcelain figurines sitting in my house today, and I remember a sweet old lady when I look at them. I showed her Uncle Luther, who died before I was born and was Julia’s husband. I stood at my grandparents’ grave site and explained to Suzy that my middle name, Givens, was my grandmother’s middle name before she married. Both grandparents died before I was born, as well.
I showed her Uncle Erskine’s final rest, and told her the cool things I never learned about him until he was dead, like the fact that he was a hero at the Battle of the Bulge and that his entire unit was wiped out twice in the war, and he was one of less than ten survivors each time. I showed her the empty space in the front row where my parents would someday lie, and the small foot marker for Josh, my brother’s son who died on day 2 of his life with lungs that never worked right. I was only about 9 or 10 when that happened, but I remember my sister’s agony for her big brother, and her own pain at the trouble she was having carrying a child to term. I pointed out my rich Uncle Tom, who built the fellowship hall for the church along with campus buildings at Presbyterian College, Furman University and several others around the state. A rich and generous man in life, his grand tombstone and full grave marker doesn’t change the fact that he took out of this life exactly what he brought into it.
Then we gave one last look back at the green awning on the edge of the cemetery, wind gently blowing the tent flaps, and walked to the car.
It’s taken me more than a week to get back to a semblance of normal, as I suppose it always does when something happens to shake the foundations of your world. I hadn’t been close to Ed for several years, distance in geography and age doing what they do to relationships, but his unstated presence was a steadying force. Gone, I felt a void that I didn’t know he filled, and I’m trying to look at what other people I might be ignoring that are important to me in unstated, less-understood ways.
The folks that read here are actually some of the people I feel closest to, even though I’ve known none of you for more than a year, and most just since December. But through our words we share a lot, and I appreciate you stopping by, and emailing, and commenting, and using Bonus Code Falstaff at Full Tilt Poker (lol). So take a look at your life, and mention how much the people mean to you who make a difference in your life. And thanks again for everything this week. I owe you guys.