Everyone we knew showed up on the day of the funeral, including some family from my dad’s side I didn’t even know existed. My mom’s coworkers were there as well as her boss. Some of my dad’s coworkers even showed along with a few of his closest friends. I didn’t even know he had friends. Of course, Kayla, Jude and Preston were also by our side for the whole thing, along with their parental units. Delia came too, even though she was confused by what had happened and how she had gotten to my house. We told her that she passed out from low blood sugar after following Kayla there. She bought it. Barely.
A few minutes after people finished arriving, the hearse and a limo pulled up to our house to escort us all to the funeral. Our family filed into the vehicles and those that couldn’t fit, followed in their cars. Which irritated Aunt Betty, but nobody cared about Aunt Betty. She was dad’s greedy, callous sister. I think she only came to see if she could do the funeral better. She was always bragging to my mom about how awesome she thought she was. Whatever.
My dad would have hated this. Everyone together, mourning him. It would be like his worst nightmare. I looked around for him, half-hoping I’d be able to see his ghost nearby. But either he wasn’t ready to reveal himself to me or I had lost the ability to see ghosts when Jude became normal again. I guess it makes sense though since he was the only ghost I could see. The smell of the white roses was making me dizzy. I’m pretty sure he hated roses, too. He basically hated everything. I didn’t exactly know how to feel. I was numb from the effort of trying to figure it out.
As the funeral progressed, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be angry, sad or relieved. Deep down, I was probably a mixture of the three. My mom sat on one side of me holding my hand, while Jude sat on the other side holding my other hand. I felt like they were trying to keep me from falling apart or something.
Ironically, it was a really nice day outside. The sun was shining and the birds were singing as if the world was happier that Gregory Bishop was no longer alive. I felt selfish when I had a fleeting thought. That I would rather be outside with my friends, than crammed like sausages inside this building. There was a surprising number of people there, more than I would have ever thought. They had to all be my mom’s friends or extended family, because the only people I cared about, were sitting right next to me. I felt like I was suffocating, waiting for the point where I had to go up to the podium to speak. I didn’t want to, but it meant a lot to my mom. I suppose she still loved him, even after everything. I can sort of remember a time when he wasn’t a shitty person.
My mom wanted to do this in a church. Why, I don’t know. We’re not religious by any means. The inside was grey, aside from the red carpet which reminded me of blood and the wooden pews which matched the podium. It was open casket, but the moment I walked in and saw him, I wanted to barf. So, I avoided looking at it. He would definitely hate that people were looking at his cold dead body.
There were two large white candles on wooden pillars on either side of the casket. They weren’t lit, so I didn’t see the point of those either. Why have candles if you’re not going to light them? A blown up photo of my dad from an old family photo was on display for the world to see. He stared back at me with vacant eyes and a happy smile. Were we ever happy? It felt like so long ago. My dad also would have hated the weird music that was playing. It was almost as bad as elevator music. I’m not even sure what it was to be honest. It made me want to plug my ears. Who chose this? Was it my mother? I would have to have a word with her regarding her taste in music if that were true. Everyone was staring at me and I realized how quiet it had become. The pastor motioned for me to stand up and come towards him. I shook my head, but my mom nudged me. I looked at her with frightened eyes, afraid I would screw this all up. Jude patted my hand and offered me a sad smile, which I couldn’t return. I stood up and walked up to the podium, like I was walking to my death. It seemed so far away, like I was walking in water. This whole thing felt like a bad dream. I cleared my throat and looked out at all the expectant faces, raptly focused on me.“Uh...my dad would have hated this...this whole thing,” I began and saw my mom furrow her brows, but I pushed on. “I can’t remember him smiling much like he is in this photo. Most of the memories I have of him aren’t ideal, to tell you the truth.”I hesitated and cleared my throat, struggling with what to say. I knew I was rambling, but it was like I had no control over what was coming out of my mouth. I avoided looking at anyone and focused on my hands instead.“I know I’m expected to say that he was a wonderful man and that he will be missed, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s true. At least, for me. I never got the chance to get to know the man my mom fell in love with. He stopped being that man a long time ago, having been broken by the stress of the world.”I paused once more, hating the things that were coming out of my mouth. I sighed and chanced a look out to the audience, shaking my head. My mom looked like she wanted to choke me, but she remained glued to her seat, probably praying that I would say something nice and get off the stage. My eyes trailed to the back of the room, noticing a figure standing in the doorway. The light behind them made them nothing more than a silhouette. I squinted and he shuffled to the side just enough for me to see his features. He’s here. His lips were pressed together and his eyes looked shiny. “But I know that my dad is here today.” I smiled, not taking my eyes off of him and he nodded in return. He was finally listening to me, albeit a little too late. “He’s watching over me in death. He made a lot of mistakes in the past, ones that I refused to let go of while he was alive. But I gotta tell you, the anger was eating me alive. Some days I felt myself becoming that bitter, negative person and I just felt so...helpless. Why is it so easy to be so angry and so hard to stay optimistic?”The people in the pews murmured and nodded their agreement. My mom had tears in her eyes and a small smile turning up the corners of her lips. My dad’s spirit smiled, his hands shoved in his pockets. He was wearing the same suit he was getting buried in and for some reason, that made me happy.“The truth is, I have never stopped loving him, no matter what he did. That’s where the anger stemmed from, I suppose. I’m finally ready to let that go now. I know he’s in a better place, he’s happy, even with this crappy music playing in the background.” This got a few laughs and I pulled out my cell phone, flipping it to the perfect song. I set it down and pressed play.“So, here’s to you dad. I love you. I hope you finally find some peace.” I smiled as the tears streamed down my face, his favorite song erupting from my phone’s speakers.“Something happens and I’m head over heels, I never find out until I’m head over heels...”My mom came up and hugged me on the stage, holding me so tight that I could scarcely breathe, but I welcomed the feeling. I looked for my dad and spotted him behind my mom. He touched her hair, lovingly and whispered that he loved her. Then, it was my turn. He touched my cheek, which made me feel like something was crawling on my face, but I didn’t try to scratch it. “My boy,” he said as he pulled his hand away, “I am so proud of you. I’m sorry I never told you that before. I didn’t realize what a good thing I had, until it was gone. I love you. I hope you can forgive me.”I nodded, whispering, “I love you.”“Oh honey, I love you, too,” my mom said, squeezing me tight and pulling away.I looked back at my dad only once. We were walking back to our seats, and I spotted him in time to see him wave goodbye, a wide smile on his face that matched that of the photo near his casket. A doorway appeared, glowing a bright white. He stepped into the doorway and with that he was gone. Forever.
The pallbearers picked up the casket after the pastor made the sign of the cross over it and shut it. My mom and I trailed behind them and everyone else fell in step behind us. They loaded the casket into the hearse along with the flowers and we got back into the limo. The funeral procession began, agonizingly slow, to the cemetery. My mom had decided that we would bury him in our new home town, where we could visit the grave whenever we wanted. I wouldn’t be doing that, knowing his spirit had moved on, leaving behind his human shell, but I knew it would bring comfort to my mom.
We reached the gravesite, watching and listening as the pastor talked about him going to be with the angels and yadda yadda. I tuned out after that, watching his mouth move, but not hearing a word he said. It wasn’t until my mom squeezed my hand and that I heard her sniffle, that I paid any attention. I had said my piece and I wanted this thing to be over. Why were funerals so long?
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” The pastor finished up, then invited everyone up to drop a bit of dirt on the casket. We all did so and then threw in the roses from the funeral.
My mom took a few moments alone at dad’s grave while they lowered his body in, needing the closure. When everything was said and done, we went back to the house and changed out of our funeral clothes in preparation for guests to arrive, per funeral tradition, with food in hand. There were so many casseroles and many condolences. I shook so many hands and was hugged by so many people, that I felt like I needed a shower to feel clean again. Kai, Jude and Kayla helped clean up and then left. They had offered to stay, but I wasn’t in a talkative mood.
“I’m going to bed, sweetie. It’s been a long day,” mom said, shuffling towards me and wrapping me in her arms again, “I love you. If you need me, you know where I am.”
I hugged her back tightly, “Love you, too, mom. The same goes for you, okay?”
She pulled back and nodded, sniffling again, as she went to her room, her head hung down. She looked so small and lost. I guess I never thought about how much she must have loved him. I took a shower, letting the hot water take away the numb feeling, sucking it down the drain. Then I crawled into bed, exhausted, and closed my eyes. Welcoming sleep with open arms, nightmares and all.