The day of Steves funeral was full of a lot of emotions for me. While some of the people who were standing around me were seeing a grown up Steve. The fun loving guy they loved to party with... I was still seeing the little boy I grew up with. I was still remembering the night he walked me home in the snow, with his arm around me, letting me cry like a baby. While they were remembering the man he was, I was pondering the man he had not gotten to be yet. While they were standing around calling themselves his friend, I was remembering the night in the car when they wouldnt let me out to protect him. I was hurt, but I couldnt feel. I was angry, but I couldnt get mad.
My house was very close to the funeral home and a few of my friends came to my house to gather before heading down the hill to the funeral. I remember my mother coming in from work and asking what all those people were doing in the house. I remember telling her "today is Steves funeral, we are just waiting until it starts." And I remember hearing the words I will likely remember the rest of my life. "People die everyday", she said. I couldnt even cry at that. I just remember feeling so cold with anger that I left immediately. I dont know why she said something so heartless. I guess at her age, people she knew did die everyday. Not for me, I wasnt even 20 yet. But it hurt deeply. No hug, no comfort. I guess thats another one of those things that looking back on I cant bring myself to wish different. Because of the lack of comfort in my life, at that time, before that time, and since then... I just dont require it. When something horrible happens to me, even now, I can step back, take a deep breath, and move on. Sometimes slowly and painfully, but always on my own.
I've been called "coldhearted" because I dont 'appear' to "feel" as much as some people do. Thats why I dont. Breaking down and being a sobbing little girl, or a sobbing grown woman was never an option for me. Ive never had anyone in my life that I could run to and just cry on their shoulder until it was all out. I dont 'need'. I rarely 'want', and I never 'have to have'. Its not that I dont feel. Its that expressing it never got me anywhere. Crying never got me a warm shoulder to lean on, and I grew up just not needing it.Then funeral inside Oakeys is a bit of a blur. I remember seeing Steve laying there and thinking that once and for all, it was over. Done. He was gone and again I was alone. I know in my soul that Steve heard my heart that day, and later proved to me that I wasnt alone as I thought I was. After the ceremony at the funeral home we rode to the gravesite. I will never ever forget that the second we turned into the graveyard, the song, Tuesdays Gone, by Lynard Skynard began playing on the radio. I remember Susan turning to look at me and saying "Oh god Joy Im sooo sorry" and reaching to turn the channel. I told her no and to leave it. Never will I hear that song without seeing that exact moment. Pulling up to the parking spot, and just sitting there listening to it and not moving, not getting out of the car, trying not to think about what we were about to do. After all, little boys dont belong in the ground. They belong with their parents and friends. Still the little boy in my mind. I couldnt get rid of that thought. That crazy smile, those pictures of my slumber party when I was turning 12 where him and his brother were the only boys invited to it.
As the ceremony was wrapping up I remember looking up to see Steves mom standing there looking at me. As she stopped comforting my other friends and spotted me, it seemed motion around me stopped completely. Others began looking at me too. I think it was that time that a few people realized how deeply hurt I was, that others stopped their selfish mourning long enough to look at me with my own sadness and pain reflected in their eyes. I remember her rushing over to me and saying 'I love you Joy, he loved you too, dont you ever forget it'. I couldnt. Ever. I knew he loved me. And I knew I loved him. But there I stood thinking that this mother, who lost her baby, her first born, was comforting me. I have no idea how I would react were one of my sons to pass away. The thought is unbearable and I have no idea where she got the strength to comfort me. But at that moment I felt extremely selfish. I tried to straighten myself up and be strong for her. A wasted effort but I tried. Suddenly all those hugs I missed were on me. All of the times I spent alone were gone, if just for a moment. I even seen Chris standing over next to the graveside, and felt comfort that he had listened to me when I asked, begged, him to come to the funeral. He hugged me too. Sounds silly I guess but this is a guy who I spent 10 years of my life beating up and fighting with. And his arms were around me comforting me. He lost Steve too. But I knew that he knew, that my loss was having a horrible impact on me. And that Steve and I were always 'two peas in a pod', aside from the friendships we shared as a group of kids growing up in 24019. I remember hating Claudia at that moment. She was the 'girlfriend' and was soaking up all the pity and comfort that came along with it. But I knew how he had really felt about her. I wanted to scream it at her, but of course I didnt. Her brother had died in that accident too, but it seemed to me she was enjoying the attention she got from Steves death more.
For some reason my group of friends had suffered a lot of death. Robbie had died not long before Steve did. And it was sad to see, and to think, that a group of 20 - 25 year olds were becoming used to attending funerals. It was like clockwork for us by then. After every funeral was a party to celebrate the life we shared with the deceased person. And as I sit here thinking back to 12 years ago, I cant for the life of me remember where the hell we partied after that funeral. I guess thats a good sign of how hard we partied, or just another sign of things I make myself forget. There is no silent mourning in this group following a funeral. And I hope when I pass that they do the same for me. But there was still the emptiness. Always that. Always there.
I suspect there isnt one kid who grew up around that area that doesnt know how to behave at a funeral. I suspect there isnt one adult wandering around now that grew up with me that doesnt reflect on their own mortality when they consider all the friends we lost. And I know that all of them hurt a little bit for the loss of innocence they suffered so early in life, so soon. When we were still supposed to be learning about life, death was following us around on a regular basis.I remember thinking even then... Robbie. Robbie was a great guy. He rode his bicycle to work about 5 miles one way, every day. Steve, busted his ass at that pizza delivery job just to be able to keep his car. They had aims, and they had dreams. And they were gone. And left behind was the ones who had no hopes or dreams, only those who bumbled around on a daily basis just trying to figure out where they belonged. Only the good die young? I really believe that. I think a lot of my fears come from that time. They were both such happy people. Robbie wasnt "happy" on the outside but he was satisfied. He knew who he was and what he had to do. Steve was just a carefree spirit, who rubbed that off on everyone who was near him. And they were gone. So whats going to happen to me if I find happiness? Whats going to happen to me if I finally become satisfied with my life? How long would I get to enjoy it? Those are incredibly senseless fears, but fears to be sure.
"Sad eyes follow me
But I still believe there’s something left for me
So please come stay with me
‘Cause I still believe there’s something left for you and me"