The hard, lacquered wood is strong. Everything about it whispers that it was built to hold up the broken. A piano plays softly on the stage, or maybe they call it an alter. Sunlight streams through stained glass windows, turning the cathedral into a giant child’s kaleidoscope. I can only imagine how many souls have kneeled on the bench in front of me.
The body of my friend is in the back, resting in what should be an empty casket. Her sister offered that my sister and I could view her as we came in. I do not have the strength. Maybe I am a coward. Or maybe, just maybe, I know that she isn’t really there. Not anymore. And I want to remember the her that I knew.
The piano is getting stronger. Major chords are spilling around the room, as more and more people file in. Most are kneeling and making the sign of the cross with their hand before finding a seat. Her family paces. There is nothing left to do, no momentary reprieve from their hurt to focus on any task at hand. They have thought of everything, and now walk back and forth, in silence.
The men are strong. They wrap their arms around sisters and wives, aunts, a cousin. There are hugs that linger and turn into holding. Tears that fall silently and seep into the ground, until they too become a part of the staining of this cathedral.
Suddenly, there is singing. Without thinking, we all rise; rocky waves in a sea of grieving, until our eyes tumble to the back of the church. The lump that has taken residence in my throat since I got the call, comes front and center. All around me people are crying. This polite crowd of mourners is struggling to remain calm. As loud as we have cried at different times in our lives, we fight to cry quietly this time. The resulting sound is almost worse, as people I know and strangers alike have their mouths open in an attempt to quiet the sharp intakes and rapid huhh-huhh, huhh-huhh-huhhh, cry-breathing of sorrow.
The service is beautiful and personal in a way that can only be accomplished for the truly loved. I manage to keep it together until her twin brother begins to deliver the eulogy. Twins. My lot in life. Not only do I have my own twin daughters, but twins have been woven throughout my life in very special ways. One of those twins used to come with me here, to this exact cathedral, and sit in silence as we stumbled through the darkness of early adulthood and tried to find God. That twin, who taught me about love, and life, and laughter in a million ways, and whose funeral I spoke at just two years ago.
Now, the room and all of it’s high ceilings, are swirling. I am listening to this man say things that endear me even further to my friend. I somehow hang on his words, and yet lose myself in my own thoughts, simultaneously. He speaks over and over about the bonds of being a twin. And I am lost; sinking in a navy blue pool of grief so deep that I cannot tell which way is up. My chest is a potato sack of ache. Heavy, and awkward. It takes all of my strength to focus on her life instead of our loss. Then,he speaks of her work with foster children, and it buoys me. As much as she was an artist and writer, it was this work, the caring for displaced children, that united us. This little thing of giving your life away, so that others may have a better chance. It is why I am here. Aren’t we all here to make a difference, for the better?
I look around and see so many people, all from different walks of life. People, who without my friend, would likely have never met. But here we are, comforting and affirming each other. United. And I think, well, my friend, you did it.