“Okay, let’s see when we have an opening,” the woman said, glancing into her planner which she’d perched in her lap. “In accordance with Virginia laws, we have to wait 48 hours before we can cremate the deceased’s body. In case the family changes their mind.”
He hadn’t been dead for twenty-four hours. The doctors called me last night at 10:45pm, and now here I was at 4:30pm the next day, sitting numbly in the small office at a funeral home. This time yesterday, I was watching him die, but he wouldn’t let me see him go. I stayed awake until four this morning writing his obituary. Let my godmother read it when she stepped off the plane and I told her the news. And now she was sitting beside me, trying to be the brave one so I could be the child, but I was too far gone for that. I’d seen war ravage and shrivel a man’s body while he writhed and moaned in agony – a never-ending fire of bullets and daggers piercing his innards. While I sat there helpless. He was the brave one. I was his failure.
“Looks like we have a two-hour opening on Saturday,” the funeral home lady mentioned.
Saturday, what was Saturday? My mind darted ahead two days. Today was Thursday. He died on a Wednesday. The football game was on Saturday. He’d never forgive me for having his memorial on the same day as his team’s home football game.
“Saturday won’t work,” I said quickly, darting a glance at my godmother, who sat like stone. “There’s a home game at UVA, and he’d kill me for taking fans from the sidelines because they stayed here to attend his funeral.”
The funeral home lady raised her eyebrow.
“You and him must have been very close,” she surmised. “To know him that well.”
“He was my best friend,” I replied. “And he lived, breathed, and died the Cavaliers.”
I may not have known an interception, a pass, or a tackle if it wasn’t for him putting me in the car with a bucket of fried chicken in the back seat and driving me to those games every Saturday afternoon when the cool, crisp air whipped and stung my chapped cheeks as he screamed and hollered at the coaches, then held me close while we proudly sang of the “good ol’ orange and blue.” Wahoos we were. A Wahoo he made me – from the time I was four years old. Holding my limp, sleeping body against his shoulder while he cheered and roared with the rest of the fans. Answering my questions when my eight-year-old finger pointed to the field as I demanded, “Explain this football to me.” And I learned. I learned what it meant to love something with all your heart, to throw yourself at life with passion and hope, to dream big, and wish for the best, but mindful of the worst that could sneak up on you if you weren’t planning ahead for the other team’s moves.
There wouldn’t be another like him – not for me in this life. I couldn’t apologize enough for the pain in his life, the pain I hadn’t been able to take away until that doctor finally gave me the choice. I couldn’t change his past, not matter how hard I’d tried, and I couldn’t alter the present – his body lying stiff on some table in the morgue while I sat and breathed and lived another day.
But I sure as hell could respect his future – and I knew, without a doubt, my father would skip his own funeral before missing out on a UVA Cavaliers’ home football game.
– Written by Miss A on July 26, 2011