Whenever we were going to something that we really didn’t want to go to, like a Bar Mitzvah for a friend of Zach’s or the wedding of a cousin’s kid who we barely knew, Caryn and I would quote her father’s famous sarcastic line just as we were walking out the door: “Let’s get this good time over with!”
Which is what I said to her as I held her hand when we walked into Gutterman’s for Rob’s funeral on Friday morning. From here on out, I may be a little fuzzy on the details, as this was the longest day of our lives, preceded by the longest week. The weird thing is that it still feels like yesterday, the most fucked-up yesterday in the history of yesterdays.
We got there early because that’s what we always did (and still do) no matter what the occasion. It was just the two of us sitting in the reception room that leads into the chapel, just like we did on another long-ago yesterday when we looked at Rob through the window in the hospital nursery on the day he was born. That’s when I first fell in love with him. And now we were here to say goodbye.
I know I’ve used the word “surreal” a lot to explain everything that went down, and that’s mainly because I wasn’t in my right mind. I was there and I wasn’t. I was so light that you could’ve blown me away like a dandelion puff and so heavy that I thought I had turned to stone. What were we doing there and who were all these people coming through the door?
It started out as a trickle. Aunt Robin arrived next, followed by Caryn’s BFF Stephanie, and then it was like a sad Fellini movie, only sped up and starring everyone we’ve ever known. I’ve never been in a room with so many crying people before. Hard crying, ugly crying, some of the most painful crying I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t anything like this when my mom and dad died or when my in-laws passed away. This was a special type of crying, the type reserved for a special type of tragedy, the worst nightmare you can think of—namely, ours.
It was a total shitshow and yet I’ve never felt so much love. The hugs I received on that day are forever etched in my soul. I mean it! I felt everyone’s heart and I needed that more than anything.
People kept pouring in like water. Rob’s friends, my friends, Caryn’s friends, our families, people we hadn’t seen in years, people we no longer liked, people I didn’t know—it was a full house and they were all there to pay their respects to the one person who didn’t make it.
The funeral director asked Caryn and me if we wanted to see Rob’s body before the service began. We both said that we did. He ushered us into the chapel, and I held Caryn as he removed the top of the casket. And there was our little boy, looking like he was fast asleep. They’d done a nice job cleaning him up. There was only a trace of a bloody lip. We couldn’t decide what clothes to dress him in, so there he was, all wrapped up in a burial shroud. Like an angel. We kissed his forehead and cried for him and cried for us. We cried all day. We had been crying all week. There wasn’t enough crying to keep up with how we were feeling. There may never be.
Zach also wanted to see Rob, so I went in with him for a second look while a conga line of mourners formed around Caryn.
“It looks like he’s asleep,” I said to Zach. “He’s at peace.”
“He looks better than I thought he would. Although he looks so little. What the fuck, dad? What the fuck?” Zach said and we both cried in each other’s arms.
I kissed Rob again, and a few minutes later the “good time” began.