I hear sniffles, murmurous crying, whispers of condolence, and see people hugging as if at a reunion. The lighting is dim but not so much that I don’t notice the spotlights focused on the loved one. Rows of pews stand at attention, some creaking with their despair as people sit on them. Perhaps they’ve witnessed one too many funerals.
Tissue boxes are scattered among the pews. People mill about at the entrance to the chapel after signing a guest book. Then there’s a cluster of them as they greet others, mainly the family members.
I walk down the aisle between the pews, hugging others I know but haven’t seen in ages. Walking up to the forever-bed, the coffin, which looks nothing like a bed, I notice how still my loved one, our loved one, is. He’s so much more frail than I have ever seen him, even though he was always slight in frame and his personality was strong. He looks like any minute he will wake, but I know differently in my head. And though I haven’t seen him in four years at least, my sorrow spills forth as if I just saw him take his last breath. Even though I know it’s his body, it doesn’t really look like the man, the soul, I knew. He looks different, almost a shadow of himself, or a twin that was once identical to him but just so subtly different, that I’m not quite sure he’s an identical or fraternal twin.
We sit on a pew two pews behind the family’s reserved ones. Between a minister speaking about our loved one’s life, religious music, more speaking from the minister, tears and tons of wadded up tissues, an hour has passed, and it’s over.
A life of 79 years, a marriage of 58 years, and 46 years of sobriety all reduced down to one hour. A life in one hour.