Marlin is a large, loud, presence at FCS -- who I mostly like. His husband Gary was very quiet, very shy, and I didn't know him much at all. I knew he struggled with severe depression, and I kinda wanted to reach out to him more (mental illness, that's my bag, right?) but I'm not good at talking to new people who aren't already talkative (I can be -- and often am -- really talkative, but I'm not good at the "getting to know you" stage small-talk, so if you are shy and quiet, it will probably take me a long time to get to know you).
Molly emailed the FCS list-serv on Tuesday morning of this week, to say that Gary had committed suicide on Monday and there would be a funeral service at the church on Thursday.
I felt a little bit gut-punched -- and I felt some guilt about not having made more of an effort to reach out to him and get to know and befriend him, but not so much because I think it would have helped necessarily, but because it would have been a good person thing to do and now obviously I don't have that opportunity.
Wednesday afternoon, Molly emailed me and FCS-Ian to ask if either of us would be at the funeral or if not, could we find someone to run sound. I said I'd be there but that I had no idea how to broadcast audio from an external source (Gary's mom wanted Sarah McLachlan's "Angel"). FCS-Ian said he'd be there if they could get a baby-sitter but that he would set up everything for me.
Around 10:15 this morning, I was leaving the office and Prof. D. was coming in and I said I was heading to a funeral (I had emailed everyone on Tuesday to said I'd be gone for a few hours mid-day today for a funeral) and would probably be back around 1. He said, "You can take longer than that," in a sort of mildly-concerned tone of, "Take your time to do what you need to do, don't rush back to work; this is more important." (We're in exam-grading period, so it feels like summertime levels of slow already, and he doesn't need anything from me anyway, but it still felt very kind to me.)
I've been to various funerals/memorial services -- Joe F's mom recently (when I heard she had died, I was like, "She was still alive?" -- Joe F. is older than my mother), both of Brooke's parents (she and I went to high school together, though it's actually her younger brother who's my year), my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather, off the top of my head. And I don't remember having a lot of sadness, but showing up is what you do.
Watching people walk in this morning (the sound booth is in the back of the sanctuary), I realized I don't think I've been to a funeral at FCS. I've been to ones at United, and I've been to plenty of weddings and other occasions at FCS, but I don't think I've been to a funeral here; I've never been to a funeral where the community carrying all this sadness was my community, where I wasn't just showing up because I cared about the immediately bereaved.
I'd been feeling cranky/anxious in my stomach earlier today, and it occurred to me that possibly that was my sadness. As I said, I wasn't close with Gary, but I knew him better than I did Joe F's mother for example (who I don't think I ever met), and he was a part of my community.
Maria came up to me before service and hugged me and said, "I love you," in that way that people do when they're reminded that there's always the chance they'll never have another opportunity to say it to someone.
After everyone was seated, Molly brought the family in, and Jeff M. came over to get the lavalier mics from the sound booth for him and Molly and I looked at the front of the sanctuary so I wouldn't be staring at him while he was doing that, and Marlin sobbed and I started crying and realized I was likely to cry through the whole service. (I had forgotten to bring a pack of tissues, but FCS has thoughtfully provided tissues everywhere -- which Jeff M. mentioned in the Welcome along with a variety of other items relevant to attending to the needs of one's body during the service.)
In the Welcome and Prayer of Invocation, Jeff M. said that dinosaur bones have been found which show signs of cancer, that there have always been faultlines in creation, which I thought was such a resonant line. (And my "death" tag tells me that was the Subject Line I used for my writeup of Kathy M's memorial service -- because apparently this wasn't the first funeral/memorial service I've attended at FCS after all.)
Jason D. intro'ed the Passing of the Peace -- said that he and Gary had bonded over being rare introverts at FCS, who hated the Passing of the Peace because they didn't want to run out of energy at the very beginning of the service. I identify as an introvert, but Kathy M. once called me a "surprise introvert" (she saw me in contexts where I felt comfortable), and it is true that I totally eat up getting to hug as many people as possible during the Passing of the Peace (AFAIC, that part of the service is not for actual conversation, so I don't think of it as a problem for introverts).
I didn't get to hug as many people as I would have liked (there were a lot of people I didn't know on my side of the sanctuary, and a lot of the people I knew were sitting on the other side of the sanctuary, and even though I was fairly certain I had un-muted the mic that would be used next, I still don't want to be too late getting back to my seat when I'm running sound)
Our opening hymn was "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (TNCH 472), and I kind of rolled my eyes, but when I actually looked at the words it felt really appropriate (though like so many hymns, I feel like it's kind of about dying). I sang the whole thing with like a bubble in my throat -- 'cause I have mentioned how I had been crying, right?
In her homily, Molly said that one time she had visited Gary when he had been hospitalized at McLean, he asked her what would happen to him if he died and she said she told him, "I don't want to tell you this, because I want you to stay..." and yeah, I know that feel. [Her answer was that God embraces you and you have no more pain &c.] I don't think my sadness was especially tapping into my knowledge that I could be attending a similar funeral for my best friend -- I mean, I was very aware of it, of course, but I think my feels were just standard-issue sadfeels.
After the service, Jonathan was waiting for me, I think for a hug.
There was a "light reception" in Fellowship Hall afterward, and I got some food (there did not appear to be enough for one to have an actual lunch-sized portion) and looked around, wanting to hug people I hadn't hugged yet, but not wanting to interrupt people's conversations.
I stood around eating my food, and a couple people (Allison S. and Jamie T.), having acquired food themselves, invited me to sit with them and I said Maybe. After I'd eaten all the food I expected I would, I went in to the kitchen to dispose of my dishes and did a loop around the kitchen and then Alissa (who I had been looking for to hug) came in and I did another half-loop following her, and I did rub her back a little, but she was talking to someone about kitchenstuff and mostly ignored me. As I continued my loop to exit the kitchen again, Jerrod asked what I was looking for. I said I was just dithering.
He said, "You're looking for a hug, that's what you're looking for," and I said Yes and he hugged me, solidly, and for an extended period of time. He said something like, "I'm free all day," and then, "But tomorrow it's five dollars," and I smiled and considered flipping him off (I am loathe to endorse the twelve-year-old boy method of anything, but I do have to concede it's often effective with me). He hugged me some more -- and moved us out of the way, still hugging, when Sue D. said she didn't want to interrupt our special moment but she needed a fork. And then we stood against a countertop for a while and he put one of his hands on mine and we hung out in silence and then prompted by stuff around us (we were still in the kitchen) eventually we chatted a bit and I felt okay to head out and return to my day.
One of the times when he went to hug me yet again, I said, "Do I look THAT sad?" After I got back to work, I went to the bathroom and noticed that my face was red from all the crying (things I did not think to put in the bag I brought with me to the funeral: lotion) and my hair looked not super well-groomed on account of my having worn a bike helmet while my hair was still damp -- so possibly I did look that bad. [Ugh, I so want a shorter haircut. I miss the haircut I had in college -- longer in the front, shorter in the back; I need to dig up pictures so I can hand them to a stylist and say, "I know there's a lot of layering &c. going on in my hair right now, but please make it look like this."] But also Jerrod is ordination-track and knows I am pro-hugging etc. and it's the reception after a funeral and I'm kinda wandering around at loose ends ... so it's not exactly rocket science. I mean, he would hug me and I would look at him, and I really had nothing to say, and I'm just standing there, looking at him or maybe not at him, and what else are you going to offer me?
I'm used to feeling reasonably comfortable at Coffee Hour (unless there are no open seats with anyone I know), and my response to feelings is usually to want to process and/or otherwise externally-direct, so I was genuinely surprised by my resistance to sitting with friends. I think mostly I didn't wanna do the cheerful small talk thing which I worried might happen (and which is a totally valid thing for people to do at the reception after a funeral, cheerful real conversation even) but I also didn't necessarily wanna be around lots of mourning conversations about someone I really didn't know well and wasn't super close to -- and I also didn't want a repeat of: I went to the bathroom before service, and when I was coming out Lisa C. was coming in and we hugged and she said, "It's unbelievable, isn't it?" and I just hugged her, because no, it's very believable.
And almost as soon as I left the building, even though I had felt ready to leave and acquire some more food and go back to work, I felt like I wanted to be hugging someone again -- 'cause yeah, physical touch is comforting.