I’ve never been to a wake before so today was a real eye opener for me. Sure, I’ve viewed deceased family members, and others, but I’ve never experienced an event like this. Ruth told me she insisted on the wake because it’s a good way to get closure. I have to admit that I was extremely skeptical with Lyle laying right there where he could hear every word. I half expected him to raise up and ask everyone to keep the noise down because he was trying to sleep. But he didn’t. He didn’t even flinch.
The wake was scheduled for four hours. For those of you who may never have experienced a wake, it’s a period of time used to punish close family members by making them stand in a line, for the entire period, while pretty much everyone in the entire town files by to pay their respects. Really, the entire town. There were at least half a bazillion of them. Honest. I didn’t know there were than many people in Windsor Locks. Michael, the funeral director said it was “a good turn out,” which reminded me that folks from Suffield were there, and a state representative showed, up, too. That explained it.
Since I was part of the family, Ruth put me at the head of the receiving line so she could introduce me to everyone. At first I didn’t think that was right, but I was, after all, there for her. So, I quit my belly aching and stood my watch. I shook hands with everyone, hugged those I remembered from our 2010 trip, and grew accustomed to everyone extolling the saintly status of my brother. Normally when I hear the same words repeated over, and over, I grow deaf to them, but that didn’t happen this afternoon. I always knew Lyle was a stand-up guy, someone to admire, and a good person to call friend. Listening to everyone repeat this to me over that four hour period made me realize that there were many sides of Lyle I didn’t know at all. That’s understandable, because these people were pretty much a daily part of his life while I, and Jim and Jack, though more closely bound by blood, we missed a lot because we didn’t have that personal connection.
Toward the end of the scheduled 4-hour period I realized that it was OK Lyle was laying there in his casket while everyone shared stories, passed their condolences, and reiterated what a great guy Lyle was. I became so comfortable with his silent presence that I almost waved at him a couple of times. But I didn’t. By that time I knew he wouldn’t wave back, and I understood the healing benefits of a wake. We were becoming desensitized to his presence, making it easier for all of us to take that next step forward. To let the din of daily life creep back into our sensory range knowing that all is well. All is as it should be. Now we all, even Lyle, can move on to the next phase of existence.
In summary, I was devastated when we first got there, not prepared for the emotional response that erupted when I first saw him laying there. It was like a time warp in my head because the last image I had of him was standing beside Ruth in the open door of their garage, waving goodbye when Diane and I headed home from our visit in 2010. Then, BOOM, there he was, prone and silent. Prone was familiar, silent not so much. By the end of the evening a billowing sense of calm pervaded the room, and everything seemed to be OK.
After that we all went back to Ruth’s, ate pizza, and continued with the stories until it was time for sleep. Tomorrow is the funeral and I’ve been blessed as one of the eulogy guys. That seems to be a developing theme for funerals and me lately.