It rained buckets the day of my husband's memorial service. I'm talking the kind of teeming, driving rain that whisks animals, neglected toys, and lawn furniture away, the kind of rain that soaks you to the skin, corkscrews a pin straight, pricey blow-dry, and sucks your Michael Kors pumps straight off your feet in the five seconds it takes to get from the house to the car. Looking back now, I guess it was really the kind of rain you'd expect, but hope not to have, the day of a funeral.
I know I hoped not to have it. But again, looking back, I'm actually surprised it wasn't worse.
A month earlier, while my husband lay dying in his hospital bed, in our den, staring blankly at episode after episode of Pawn Stars which I was certain was hastening his demise and which I once, and only once, made the mistake of trying to change to a music channel only to have him suddenly brighten and nearly bean me with the remote, he said, "Susan, no service." His voice was really soft for someone still strong enough to close for Nolan Ryan, and for a second I thought what I always thought when he said this, I'll pretend I didn't hear him.
I looked at him. He was watching at Rick go after Corey about some piece of crap the kid shouldn't have bought. A minute went by, then two. I thought he'd fallen asleep, so I got up really quietly to start dinner. Obviously, I wasn't quiet enough. My butt wasn't two inches off the sofa when he suddenly said, "Susan, did you hear me? No service."
"Yes, sweetheart," I said, going to him. "I heard you." And then I bent down, kissed him, and lied straight to his still so handsome face. "No service."
"I don't want to inconvenience everyone."
"I know," I replied. "But-"
He cut me off. "Death is very inconvenient, Susan."
Then how 'bout you don't die, I thought, looking at him, and we go back to our lives. You, loving the five-hundred acre petting zoo we call home. Me, poking fun of it with every word I write. You coaching football and letting Tug, our perpetually filthy golden retriever, get in our bed. Me, threatening to beat you and that hound with a helmet the next time I found cow manure all down my side.
Death is more than very inconvenient, I thought. Death sucks. Cancer sucks. And lying to a dying cancer patient to whom you've been married for almost twenty-two years and with whom you fundamentally disagree on the purpose of a service, well that really sucks.
"A service is for the living," said my mom.
"The kids need closure," said several of my girlfriends.
"Susan, he won't be here. For God's sake, do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your sons," said my therapist.
Ah, my sons. Two kids so undone by the fact that no amount of taking out the garbage, making their beds, setting the table, getting good grades, or hosing down the dogs was going to save their dad, and who asked, begged really, on several occasions that we not be alone when the inevitable happened.
I promised them not to worry; we'd be surrounded by family and friends. And, when the boys were out of earshot, I promised my husband there'd be nothing but a simple obituary and that no one would ever utter the words, "Dammit! I'm going to miss the big game/ party/annual sale at my favorite store because I have to go to McCorkindale's stupid service!"
Please, somebody tell me it's OK to be a two-faced, double-talking liar if you do it out of love.
In the end, I know he got me. We awakened that Saturday morning to a veritable monsoon. I watched a toad, a baseball mitt, and the pillow from our hammock whoosh away in what used to be a stream but was now a small tsunami. I got soaked freeing my aforementioned Michael Kors pumps from the mud, and had to hit my hair with a flat iron at the funeral home. (Hey, my husband hated my hair curly even more than he hated the idea of a memorial. I couldn't completely let him down.) And then, later in the day, with about a hundred people eating, drinking, and telling funny "Coach Mac" stories in our teeny, tiny, house, the windows on the front door blew in from the wind.
It took four men and a full roll of duct tape to fix it. But at least he didn't send locusts.