The funeral was on a Friday in France, one week after the death of my boyfriend’s grandfather, the father of his father, Joseph. The day passed as if it were some surreal dream. The weather providing a soundtrack to each moment from the viewing of the body to the lowering of the wooden casket into the earth.
There was magic in the day, magic in the passing despite the brief which cloaked it. As if the deceased had not yet departed and was accompanying us in each step towards Jean’s final goodbye.
We payed our respects to the lifeless body before the burial. It lay in an open casket in an unidentifiable, brown, dimly-lit room – the sole purpose being one of farewells, of grief. A space for grief. I was the sole outsider present in a gathering of nine, all of which were close family. I observed and felt the energies as they passed in and out of the characterless room. The sob and breaking of tears momentarily splintering the silence followed by a soft utterance of words meant to comfort.
“He is at peace now..”
At some point I sat myself just outside the room. Alone I regarded the solemn figures through the doorway frame, their faces hidden under required masks, unmoving like statues side by side. How seldom such moments occur that permit us to just feel collectively in silence. When no words need to be spoken because what is communicated is clear. One is just present in one another’s grief.
There is a rare beauty in such moments. Those moments a son can stand silently alone in a room with his father and it being the longest he has ever been able to intensely look upon his father’s face and allow himself to feel.
It made me me wonder how fleetingly we regard the faces of loved ones. How quickly we distract our focus from another’s features due to discomfort, ego or fear of vulnerability. If only we could just peer into each other’s faces in silence more, not just when one has passed but when both still have breath passing through their lips.
Throughout the day, I watched as the wall of the usually impenetrable father of my boyfriend began to crumble. The hand of his daughter reaching for his after viewing the body of the deceased, her hand almost having to force itself around his, knowing that without a bit of force, the love might not be accepted for with the acceptance of love comes the freeing of tears.
It was at the church when the wall could truly no longer hold as Joseph gave a last address to his Papi. Each collection of words was like a canon ball to his frontier and by the end of his speech, his deep and self-assured tones cracked under the pressure of his sorrow- crippled, he grasped the corners of the podium and gasped for air.
How moving to see a man finally give way for vulnerability.
The rain poured as the casket was lifted into the hearse to take Jean to his final resting place.
When we all arrived at the cemetery, the wind howled and whipped us from side to side as rain dampened and joined the salt on our cheeks beneath our masks. Perhaps a final fight against the letting go of life.
We surrounded the grave and without touching hands formed a circle around the now rose decorated casket deep in the ground. The rain cleared and a tranquility enveloped us as behind the grey curtain of clouds, the sun appeared, gently wiping away our tears. As we turned to walk away, a softly radiant rainbow in the distance illuminated the sky as if ensuring us that a spirit had been present and was now at peace, and that beauty still exists, even in our darkest moments, even in death.