The wake for Susan's husband was scheduled for the standard two viewings with food to be served at her house in between. She opted to keep the casket closed because she didn't want anyone to see how dead he looked, herself included. Even still, she was looking forward to it. She wanted to see everyone, she wanted to let the emotion out.
After two days of cold rain it was now bright and sunny, mercifully this lifted her mood. She was still trying to get to the Department of Labor for the mandatory meeting that she missed on Monday. If she took care of it that morning then afterward she'd be in range to pick up her youngest niece from the local airport.
She got to the Department of Labor and was told that no one would be able to see her for another forty five minutes. Without hesitation she pulled out the dead husband card and instantly all faces looked at Susan in pained concern. She was asked very softly to take a seat in the adjoining room.
The adjoining room was filled with people. She walked in, felt overwhelmed and left. Before she got thru the door a voice called her name and she turned to see someone she knew. Susan sat in the seat next to him and when he asked how she was Susan blurted out 'I'm burying my husband today.'
'What?' he said with an dis-believing laugh.
'I know.' she said as a way to comment on the absurdity of her statement.
A civil servant came to fetch Susan before she could say anything other than goodbye to her seat mate. The civil servant was very nice and said that they would not keep her there any longer, they only wanted her to be aware of the resources available at the employment center. Susan thanked her with appreciation and sincerity then left for the airport.
It was good to be helpful. Everyone had been helping Susan do everything for weeks. Her little sister was out in front, followed by her parents who had been keeping the household running without any instruction, and the husband's daughters, Susan's next door neighbors, Cousins Lisa & Greg, and every friend & relative who was aware of the situation.
Everyone helped Susan.
It was wonderful to see her niece, neither had sad faces despite the misery of the situation, just happy greetings and excited chatter. Susan dropped her off then headed home to get ready.
She chose a pretty kelly green dress recently purchased with the husband at a local consignment shop. It was a bit revealing so she topped it with a blue sweater which tied at the waist. Last, she added his wedding ring suspended from a gold chain around her neck.
The flask filled with tequila was already being safeguarded by the husband's second daughter.
Susan was ready.
She walked into the funeral home, saw her husband's casket and said to herself I can do this. Set up next to the casket was a large smiling picture of the husband taken by her little sister. It was a nice picture.
She looked around the room, taking it all in, getting her brain ready.
She walked up to the casket to assess the arrangement. Susan was really pleased, it was exactly what she hoped it would be. Included was a surprise of dried lotus pods incorporated into the winter greenery.
Sidebar: Susan understands how insane it is to be happy with things like caskets and funeral flowers but she couldn't help it, that's how she felt.
It was time for the private viewing of which Susan wanted no part. She hot-footed it downstairs to play with the twins until the coast was clear, then returned and began to greet incoming friends and family.
The husband's music was playing and Susan was surprised to find herself animated and chatty. She figured it was just an initial burst of energy which would give way to wailing and sobbing but that didn't happen. She was happy to see everyone who showed up, getting the chance to spend a few minutes in conversation with most of them. When the viewing hours were over she still stayed behind talking.
Meanwhile, Susan's house had been transformed into a busy mess hall. Trays of hot food were sent over from two local restaurants and people sitting in borrowed chairs were all over every square inch of space eating and talking.
Two hours later the evening viewing filled up fast and hard. People from every area of her husband's life flooded in, people she hadn't seen in twenty years and others she didn't know at all. Throughout the evening someone would approach Susan and say 'You don't know me...' and give their name to which she would counter with a story or two the husband had told her about them.
Susan couldn't move against the sea of people coming at her, she embraced everyone including a seemingly endless line of high school wrestlers. Often while hugging one person she'd be reaching over to greet the person in line behind them. This went on till it was time for her to address the packed house from the podium set up at the front of the room.
She began by telling a small story about how the husband told her he loved her the moment he saw her. She originally thought this was probably a pretty standard line, but over the years whenever he repeated it she was always surprised at his consistency and would think maybe he did actually fall in love with me the moment he saw me.
Susan invited anyone not afraid of public speaking to come up and share a story. Cousin Lisa was first followed by her husband, Susan's youngest niece, three longtime friends and ending with the sixteen year old daughter of a family friend. When Susan couldn't coax another brave soul from the crowd she concluded by saying that it was her pleasure & privilege to have been the husband's partner for more than 25 years.
She stayed and talked beyond the viewing hours. She also got through the day without having to hit the flask.
After everyone but immediate family were gone she walked around with Jade, the aspiring funeral director to collect the guest book and all the cards from the flowers. Jade was really lovely and Susan asked about her interest in mortuary science, her schooling and how late can people stay before they get kicked out.
Afterward Susan stood alone at her husband's casket. This was it, in a few moments they would part. She reached out and pressed her hand against the wood leaving an imprint of her fingers and palm to accompany him.
She left and took the big green shamrock with her.