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The Wake

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

The line wraps around the town square

Past the stone church with stained glassed windows

The cemetery, bank, and town hall

Hundreds, maybe thousands of friends, classmates, former teachers, co-workers, teammates, and exes, wait to honor, bless, and mourn an inspiring mother, sister, co-worker, friend, and love

I stand there in heels, wishing I'd worn flats, marveling at all the people who've wrapped this town square in a hug It's love personified

A woman appears next to me and introduces herself as a friend of the deceased's mother "She's been cutting my hair for 40 years." I know that means so much more than just haircuts We talk about writing, books, and a mutual love for historical fiction

For a moment, we're not at a wake. We're just two strangers chit chatting on the street A man approaches, calling her name. "Hello. How's your mother?" she asks. "She's inside. Let me take you through a side door." "Not without her." My new friend points at me

And so I'm ushered in a back door by strangers

It feels oddly similar to being snuck backstage in Hollywood But this is not a show

Inside the funeral home, my new friend and I sign a guest book and stand in another line

"Now who are the blonde boy and the woman in the long dress?" "That's her sister. My friend and my friend's son," I say. "Oh yes, I recognize them from the pictures her mom hangs on the mirror where she cuts my hair." My new friend pauses and asks, "And the guy next to them?" "That's her husband. Her son's stepdad." "Stepdad?" she says. "Yes. She got it right the second time." "Ah," she nods. "So did I." I glance at the body at the back of the room and think how weird it is to have "normal" conversations when there's a lifeless body in the room. I remind myself to google the origin of this awkward tradition later The line inches toward the family. My new friend hugs her longtime friend. I hug mine. All of us sob The air is a concoction of emotions. Like someone tossed grief, gratitude, love, laughter, sorrow, and reconnection in a blender and turned it on It's a lot. I worry about my friend and her son. They're empaths. They feel other people's emotions. A person of normal sensitivities would be overloaded in this room I slip black obsidian in my friend's hand She takes it My new friend and I find two chairs in a corner "So, tell me about getting it right the second time," I say. She tells me she got married at 21, to a man she later realized only married her because she had a profession and could pay for his school

"Of course, it took a long time to realize that," she says. "It takes a long time to realize most things," I reply.

"Do you really want to hear all of this?" she asks. I lean in close and tune out the body, the crying, laughter, and hugging around me.

This is one of those moments when I want to save every detail, so I smile and say,

"Yes. Tell me everything."

Image courtesy of Massachusetts Civil War Monuments Project (

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