I went to your wake tonight. There were sooo many people there! Having 10 siblings and an extended church family, I knew you would have many visitors, but obviously I underestimated the amount of people who knew and loved you. I shouldn’t have, though. I’m sorry about that.
I loved all the photos they had there, Donna. You would have laughed at some of them, probably rolled your eyes at others. I particularly loved seeing the younger photos of you. I hadn’t ever seen those before. You had that amazingly long hair even back then. And your wedding photos. I loved those, too. I was so happy you invited me and the other bookstore folks. I *love* weddings. I may be one of the most unromantic people, but I still love going to weddings. And yours was pretty awesome. It totally made me laugh when you and Craig were trying to shove wedding cake at each other. You were having fun, having a good time, and Craig seemed so gaga over you.
You know, people have said that he took care of you 24/7 near the end. He loved you, Donna. Loves you. But I think you already know that.
I think I saw your boy there, too. I haven’t seen him in person since he was just a little guy, but from your Christmas card I think I recognized him. He seemed ok. Surrounded by a bunch of people, but not being smothered, you know? I wanted to say something to him, but I didn’t think he needed to hear anything from a person he didn’t even know. Did you get to talk with him a lot in the past few months? I hope you did. He still has his dad, Donna, and all of your family. He certainly won’t be alone, will he?
Were you angry, though? I know you believe in God and an afterlife. I know how much your church and your faith has meant to you….but you still must have been pissed. Or…maybe you weren’t.
Maybe I was angry enough for both of us.
You were 50, Donna. Just 50. A teenage son still needing you. A husband and family and friends who love you, who still want to talk with you, who want to hear that amazing, life-affirming laugh you always had.
But Donna? So…after I waded through the throngs of folks in the funeral home, signed my name to the guest book, looked at the photos of you everywhere….I saw your casket. I walked to it, keeping my eyes averted so as not to look at you yet. I needed to find a bit of courage first. I knew you wouldn’t look quite the same, losing so much weight from being sick but honestly? People that have been embalmed never look quite the same as they did in life, do they? No matter how hard the funeral directors try, there’s always this doll-like quality to those in the caskets. But sweetie? Oh, Donna. You didn’t look like yourself at all. Not only had cancer shrunken your body, but you aged so much this past year. So, so much. I couldn’t find you in there. I couldn’t find you in the body that was lying in the casket. I didn’t recognize your face…at all. I know you must have suffered so much in the past few months, but I don’t think I could really comprehend that, until tonight.
But…my friend…I refuse to remember you that way. I refuse. And I know how my mind works. I will actually forget that image of you in the casket. I will block it from my memory until I only remember you, the real you. Our Donna, laughing at the bookstore or looking so in love when you talked about your boy. Every Christmas I will think of you as I send out cards. Yours was always the first or second one I received. We used to “race” each other with our cards, remember? When I look at photos of my cat, Ginger, I will always think of you and how happy you were to give her to me…and get her out of your house! (She really was a grumpy kitty, wasn’t she?) And anytime I see a woman with long dark hair wearing a long jean skirt, how can I not think of you?
I will miss you, Donna.