It was all a blur, and yet so real
I was dressed in my suit and tie, which I only wore for special occasions. I suppose the funeral for the love of your life qualified as special. Mom and dad had debated whether I should attend at all, given my suicide attempt and recovery days earlier, but I convinced them that this was something I simply had to do.
Mom and dad worked together to make all of the arrangements, sending an announcement at the high school and tracking down what few relatives of his we could contact in such a short amount of time. I stayed behind the scenes for all of this; I simply couldn’t bear any more pressure and undue stress.
But the day had finally come and all four of us, dad, mom, Ty, and I made our way into the church for the funeral and sat down right in the front. Derrick didn’t belong to any church, but we were able to have his funeral at ours.
I could never have prepared myself for this moment; the culmination of all of the love we had shared simply wiped out so quickly.
The casket sat right in front of the altar, and was closed during the funeral. I don’t think I could have seen his face...not yet. Atop the casket was a portrait sized photo of one of his senior pictures he had taken back in the fall. The smile so graciously portrayed and the deep eyes which still haunted me had reminded me that this was to be a celebration of his life, not a mourning of his death.
We had come an hour early so we could be as close as possible, and by the time the funeral was about to start, the church was filled with only a few dozen people, most of them students. The fact that the church could seat a thousand made it feel all the more empty.
The first to speak was Father Bakers spoke first at a small podium a few feet away from the casket. He mentioned briefly about how he had never really met Derrick, but wished he had considering how highly I had spoken of him in the past. After that he read a few bible passages about death and rejoicing life, I can’t remember which since I was very unfocused at the time.
“I’d now like to invite anyone who would wish to speak a little about Derrick to please come forward,” he said before stepping down.
Several students and coaches I had recognized had come forward to talk about how great and involved Derrick was in sports and band; it hurt me though since everyone talked about his physical capabilities, and so little about his emotional. It seemed like none of them had ever gotten to know the true Derrick, the one that was so capable of love, so timid yet always willing to make new friends, so caring yet protective of the things he cared for. They didn’t truly know Derrick, they only knew of him.
Angie and Kallie both spoke briefly about how they had come to know and love Derrick through me and both promised their love and support to me in the following years.
Finally, the one person I had expected the most to step forward did, Benny, Derrick’s best friend and a former fellow tenor sax player of mine.
Benny stood up in front of the small crowd and looked out as if he was thinking pensively and preparing every word he was about to say.
“I know everyone here tonight is aware of one very important thing about Derrick that none of us want to talk about…,” I felt now like everyone had one eye on Benny and one on me, “his courage. Derrick was an outstanding person not because he could kick a soccer ball, or drive a par four. He was an outstanding person because of the courage and confidence he exuded.”
When he was outed, he didn’t run away and hide under a rock, he faced it with pride in knowing that he was finally able to be the person he truly was…truly is. While he had a lot of support along the way,” he quickly eyed me before returning to the rest of the room, “he was still able to face decisions and choices that so few of us have the confidence and strength to face. I learned more from Derrick in this past year than I have knowing him his whole life. He has become more of an inspiration to me than ever before, and for that, I remember him…I praise him…I thank him.”
Benny walked over and placed his hand on the casket and hung his head for a few moments before returning to his seat.
For a few moments, it looked as if no one else was going to stand. I was torn between the need to express my undying love for him, and the fear of what further grief doing this could cause. Before I could finish quarrelling with myself, I was shocked to see my mom get up and walk to the podium.
“I only knew Derrick for a few months, but I feel that he has done tremendous things for me and my family. He had to endear countless troubles and terrible situations, but seemed to make it through all of them with his incalculable heart. The most important thing he did for me, he did for my son. Tommy had always been so shy and had slowly grown distant from us for reasons we didn’t understand yet, and then Derrick came into his life. Even when we didn’t know what was happening between them, Tommy’s demeanor at home quickly improved. Derrick gave the spark back into my son’s life… and back into mine.”
“While they have faced a lot of troubles, they have faced them together, with a love so powerful and unlike that which I have never seen before. You taught us all an amazing lesson about life…true love knows no boundaries. While you may have gone from this world, you will continue to live on in all of our hearts, mine especially. You deserved far much love from your family than you ever got. You loved my son, you saved my son, and for that, you will always be a member of this family. You will always be my son.”
She finally stopped fighting back the crying and let loose. She stumbled her way back to our seats, unable to see where she was walking from the torrent of tears running down her face. If she could do it, then what reason did I have not to. I proudly stood up and made my way up to the podium, my eyes fixed on the casket the whole way up. I stopped at the podium and looked out at the people. Small as the crowd may have been, I was still a nerve-racking experience.
I cleared my throat before beginning. I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. From the first moment I saw Derrick, I fell deeply in love with him. I thought then that it was only a boyish fantasy of mine that could never have come true. I’ll never understand why Derrick, but you saw something within me, something perhaps I’ve never seen of myself. All of my dreams were becoming a reality, and then winter came around. An event which could have scared away and separated any other couple, somehow only strengthened our love and gave us the courage to face the world not as two people, but as one together, bound by love.”
“For whatever reason, God decided you had a greater purpose to serve, and I accept that. But no matter what happens, I will never forget what we shared, and what you taught me about the world and about myself. Everyone who ever met you is a better person for having done so, and I can attest to that better than anyone. I love you Derrick; I always have, and I always will.”
I walked over, kneeled down, and rested my head upon the casket and let him support me one final time. After some time passed, I don’t know how long, but it felt like forever, I stood back up and headed to my seat. Mom and dad both placed their arms around me and hugged tightly.
The funeral ended and we all prepared to go to the burial site. As everyone filed out, I stayed behind and walked up towards the casket. I couldn’t bear burying him without saying goodbye. I opened the lid and looked down at his battered face. The morticians had done the best they could, considering the extent of his injuries. He looked so peaceful, lying with his eyes closed and hand folded across his chest. I leaned down and kissed his lips one final time. They were so cold; gone was the warmth which accompanied every kiss and embrace we once shared.
I reached into the left pocket of my pants and pulled out the pair of rings we had worn so often. I placed the first on my finger and reached down, took his cold left hand, and placed the other on his.
“Let this bind our love, even in death.” I placed his hand back on his chest, looked one last time at him, and closed the lid.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked back to see Father Bakers.
“It’s like shutting the door to the life we shared together,” I said.
“Tommy, you will always have the memories of Derrick with you…always. And remember, when God closes a door, he often opens a window. And if I know God, he’s still got something in store for you.”
“Great, the last thing I need is more ‘Divine Intervention,’” I motioned to the casket.
“People who say everything happens for a reason are dead wrong. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people for no reason whatsoever. The last thing God would ever want to do is break up the love you two shared. Intimate love is perhaps the greatest gift mankind ever received, and I have a feeling you’ll receive it again one day.”
“You’re very welcome.” He patted me on the back and headed out the door to the cemetery.
I turned my back to the casket and began the long walk to the cemetery and the rest of my life.
I stood at the grave along with the few from the church who had come to the cemetery and stared as the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. The few people there embraced each other and continued to cry as I simply watched my love buried beneath the Earth itself. My eyes glanced at the headstone which mom and dad must have ordered. It was a beautiful white marble and read:
Derrick Edward Becket
Friend, Lover, Son
I stared intently at the stone, when I suddenly felt someone pushing on my shoulder from behind.
I finally snapped back to reality.
“What?” I croaked groggily.
“Come on, we’ve got to go register for classes,” said Kallie. I could barely see her hovering over me as I lay in bed.
“Okay, okay, give me a minute to wake up.”
“All right. Hey, were you crying in your sleep? Your eyes are all red.”
“I must’ve left my contacts in. I’ll be up in a minute.”