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Tuesday, February 10, 2009  

Funeral for a Friend

Last Monday, Groundhog Day, started out normally. As on most other weekends, Gerd was going to be picking Trash up at 7:30 to carpool downtown. Pretty much the only thing that can get M. Edium out of bed before 7:30 any more is the chance to kiss mom goodbye at the door and wave to her and Gerd as they drive off in Gerd's car.

Sorry. We're still at the stage where one has to remember to use the past tense.

At 3:08 that afternoon, Chao called my cell phone from the hospital to say that he'd tried to get a hold of Trash, because Gerd had been rushed to the hospital with a pulmonary embolism. It was pretty serious, and her parents were on their way up from Illinois, and there were any number of doctors in there with her. And he was calling because he didn't want Trash to be stranded downtown without a ride home. I told him to keep us posted, and called Trash as soon as I hung up.

She had just gotten out of a meeting, so I was able to reach her. I told her what little I knew about what was going on, and she called Chao right away.

About twenty minutes later, she called to tell me Gerd had died.

The first thing I thought -- after my shock at such an obviously impossible occurrence -- was what we were going to tell M. Edium. It was hard enough to explain to him about Turtle and Strat, and they'd been sick for a long time. In fact, he still kind of believes that they'll get better and come back one day.

But how to explain to him about Gerd, who had been playing with him at our house just that Friday? Who drove his mom to work that very morning and, as far as he knew, was dropping her off that night? How to tell him that really, as much as we try to predict these things and how death isn't always a surprise, sometimes it is? Sometimes it completely fucking blindsides you and there's not a goddamn thing anyone can do about it?

And how to tell him this before his mom got home, because she was with Chao at the hospital all evening until well after he went to sleep? What might he think of her chances of getting home safely after being let in on that dark little factoid?

So call me a coward, but I decided we'd tell him together, the next morning, before he went to school. And that's what we did.

I think he gets it a little more this time, now that it's a person who's died. A friend of his. After we drove six hours to go to Gerd's funeral, he was half-expecting to see her on some level, but only ever got to see her casket being loaded into the hearse. Trash rode on to the cemetery with everyone else, while I hung out around the church with M. Edium and waited for everyone to come back to the parish hall for lunch. And answered his questions as best I could.

Most of those questions were simply, "why?" As in, why does her body go in that box? Why is it being driven away? Why will it be buried? I was able to answer most of those questions.

I'm glad he didn't ask why she was gone in the first place. I don't think I'll ever have an answer for that one.

posted by M. Giant 8:54 PM 5 comments


I'm so sorry for your loss. A good friend of mine died Monday at age 26 completely unexpectedly. Her heart just stopped. I still cannot believe it's true--like maybe Ashton Kutcher is doing some sick non-celebrity version of Punk'd and I'm just waiting for the cameras to appear and tell me Sarah is really alive.

I guess the only thing you can really do is cry and hold tight to the ones you love.

Again, I'm so sorry for both our losses.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 10, 2009 at 11:58 PM  

Explaining death to a child, especialy the death of a loved one, is never easy. It sounds like you handled really well though.

I am so, so sorry that you're having to answer all those tough questions. I'm sorry for your loss.

By Blogger Jen, at February 11, 2009 at 6:11 AM  

I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm so sorry for M.Edium's loss. I think you handled his questions really well.

[In my culture an open coffin is the norm, which sometimes asks more questions than it answers].

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 12, 2009 at 4:06 AM  

I am praying for you tonight. Sadly, we relate all too well. We lost a friend to suicide in December, and two our our munchkins are buds with two of his kids. Explaining to them that their friends' dad had died, and then trying to explain suicide to them, was the most gut wrenching thing we've ever had to do as parents.

I still walk around in a fog sometimes, not sure whether I'm saying or doing the right thing.

Life's too hard sometimes. I wish we all had do-overs.

By Blogger carmilevy, at February 12, 2009 at 3:41 PM  

So sorry for the loss of a dear friend. What a tragedy for you and for the world to lose someone so young and good. Our child had cancer a number of years ago (thankfully, now in remission) and people speaking platitudes to us was hard to handle. The only thing I really remember that resonated with me is when someone talked to me about how grief is the price we pay to love. I'm sorry you and your family are suffering that payment now. Peace to you all.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 13, 2009 at 6:04 PM  

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