Monday night, I felt like dying. I wasn't suicidal or anything like that, but as I laid on our bed, my face buried in the stuffed animal puppy Jon gave me last Valentine's Day and broke down, I could not imagine the flow of tears ever stopping. For the first time since losing Jon some two days before, I could not feel anything but pain. There was no feeling of peace; no relief, and certainly no hope. As I cried myself to sleep, I spoke to Jon in my head. "Jon, you told me I would be ok. Well, I don't feel ok. I feel like things will never be ok, so you're going to have to help me out."
I woke up Tuesday morning, the day of Jon's funeral, with a sense of complete and utter dread. I had already said goodbye... probably more times than anyone else, so why did I have to bear witness to yet another torturous goodbye? As my mother and I drove on the Palisades Parkway toward Rockland County, we passed the Scenic look out. Without really thinking about it, I asked her to pull over. Let me explain why.
About a year and a half ago, we had a meeting with Jon's primary oncologist who told us Jonathan's most recent scans had shown progression, rather than improvement as we had hoped for. Prior to that, we had been so hopeful and literally, so close to clear scans, that this was devastating news. Jon and I had only been together for a few months at the time, but were already discussing our future together. Anyway, that night, Jon's parents had met us at the hospital so we had separate cars. Jon and I made the drive home together, on the Palisades Parkway. Jon didn't want to talk. He said, "later". As we were coming up on the scenic lookout, I said "Are you in a rush to get home?" He said "No", and somehow knew what my idea was.
We had never stopped there before, but he pulled over and we got out of the car. It was dark, and freezing, but the view of the city was pretty amazing. We silently walked together, and then stopped. Our arms around each other, we didn't say a word. We cried, and held each other tighter, then wiped our tears and silently walked back to the car. That night, we re-affirmed our commitment to one another. Standing there, looking out at the city, freezing, we knew the road we had been on was about to get harder. We needed no words to make the decision together to keep fighting and for it to always be about the two of us. We never spoke of that night or what it meant until Jon admitted later that he had thought about proposing there. I had had no idea that it had meant as much to him as it did to me.
So, February 7, 2012... I told my mother I need a minute and got out of the car. I walked to where Jon and I had stood, and felt the sun shining on my face. I asked him for strength. Although physically alone this time, I could feel Jon with me, reaffirming now his commitment to me... showing me that he was not in a coffin in a funeral home...he was not in that body that I had loved so much but that failed him in the end. He was with me...around me. So I wiped my tears and walked back to the car.
The funeral was a whirlwind of people. There were people I had never met, people I appreciated coming because I wasn't expecting them to, and then there were the select few I burst into tears when I saw. Jonathan's clinic nurse, who loved him as much as I did and had gotten me through so many rough days, and our social worker who had made it possible for me to be home with Jon these last two months. She made it possible for me to be able to only focus on Jonathan. I will be forever grateful to these people, because in the end, they changed the course of our world. They made an impossibly awful situation, as good as it could have been.
I was able to place the wedding band on Jonathan's finger and say goodbye one last time before they closed the casket. As his sister, Katie, and I walked up to the coffin together, I kept reminding her not to save this image. "That's not him, Katie. It's just his body." Although she is 22, I felt (feel) protective of her...I have a feeling I'm channelling Jonathan's feelings toward her. :)
I don't know how I got through my speech (see previous post), but when I was standing up there at the podium, I just remember thinking, everyone deserves to hear this. Jonathan deserves me to be strong enough to say these words. He was always so amazing with words and although I'm sure his speech would have blown mine away, I think I got the point across. The thing is, there are people who knew Jon before he got sick and some of them I think have this image that once he got diagnosed it was all downhill from there. I wanted to make it clear that our love, right smack in the middle of the biggest downhill of his life, made his world better. I wanted it to be clear that Jonathan lived.
Standing at the burial was difficult. I started to feel the slightest bit of panic. That's Jonathan down there. Why are we covering his casket with dirt? He's going to be gone forever... and then I felt the warmest ray of sunshine surround me. I calmed down, and realized Jon was again reminding me, he was there.
Back at the house, Shiva was another whirlwind of people. In and out with food and cards and hugs and introductions... It was exhausting. Most people don't know what to say, some shared amazing stories with me, others I found myself comforting. It was amazing to see the outpouring of love for Jonathan. So many people had admired him and came to tell me how wonderful they thought I was. I remember thinking, me? All I did was love him. I guess I was pretty good at it though. ;)
As the three days came to a close last night, I felt a mixture of emotions. The Rabbi (who was very sweet) told a story about the Jewish belief that life goes on. He made reference to some reading in which a wedding procession and a funeral procession are stopped at an intersection and the question arises, who should wait? The teaching of the story is that the wedding goes first because life goes on, and although it made sense (much more when he told it) I couldn't help but feel utterly pissed. Why didn't our life go on? Why didn't death, this funeral, have to wait for our wedding? Hearing his friends tell stories about him that were just "so typically Jon" made me smile. Hearing people talk about his accomplishments made me feel so proud and yet so angry. Someone that special SHOULD be here. The general consensus was that Jon had lived more in 25 years than most people do in a lifetime. But why?
Jon's best friend, Dan, and I went up to Jon's room. I had given Dan the book Jon wrote song ideas in from our apartment, and in his childhood bedroom we found even more. Most of the ideas from the book in the apartment Jon had shared with me in one way or another, and I knew Dan would be the only person who could take those words and turn them into a song.
When we started skimming through the papers and books we found in his room though, there seemed to be a common theme. It was like Jon knew somehow that his life would be short. It was profoundly disturbing and somehow gave me a sense of peace at the same time. On the drive home, I started to think, it all seemed too well orchestrated.
I found out that the moment before Jon and I had met, he had been lamenting his lack of a girlfriend. Our mutual friend told him to make a list of qualities he was looking for in a girl and keep it with him. After he did that, and was continuing to complain about not finding love, she said he stopped mid-sentence when he saw me. The rest is history.
The common theme in all the stories Jon's friends were telling, had to do with Jon being so motivated to create... how they'd want to just hang out and relax and he'd hear a melody in his head and want to work on writing songs. The story of how Jon met one of his best friends from college, Joey, (who eventually became one of the three original band members) just felt like Jon picked him. Maybe he picked all of us. Believe me, I'm honored. I just can't help but feel like I have little control over things. Maybe Jon was placed here for a short time, to do these amazing things, and we were just a part of that plan. And I'm ok with that... I think. It just makes me feel like I had this grand purpose, to be such a big part of Jon's life, and be there when he needed me, etc. And I'm not sure what my next step is. I know he will show me the way, and it's comforting and scary at the same time -- to feel like your next move is already planned out for you. (This coming from a girl who is a control FREAK).
I was speaking to Jon's cousin's wife, Rachel, and I was trying to explain how I felt. I was feeling sort of guilty during Shiva for not being more inconsolable, but the only word I could think of to explain to her that I was feeling was "accomplished." I feel like I accomplished something. That may sound weird, but I loved Jonathan with all my heart and so many amazing things came out of that, and in the end, I was there at the last second and I feel like I sent him off to leave this world with no fear in his heart and all the love in the world. Somehow, that makes me feel accomplished. It may sound like a silly word to use, and maybe words don't do it justice in an explanation, but it makes sense to me. And it goes along with my theory that I had a special role in Jon's life.
Maybe he was an angel -- sent here to teach us something, to be here for a short time, but to show us how to live, how to love. Maybe he had so much energy because all of his special-ness and talents couldn't be contained. Maybe he always somehow knew intuitively that his time would be short. And if I was a part of that, maybe there are more big plans coming my way.
Whatever the case, I know he'd want me to be happy. And something tells me, he's going to find a way to make sure I am, in a big way. Subtlety was never one of his qualities. <3
"In the night of death, HOPE sees a star, and listening LOVE can hear the rustle of a wing" -- Robert Ingersoll