Today was a typical late-summer day in Colorado -- a few white billowy clouds making their way lazily across a bright blue sky and excited people headed up to the mountains for the long Labor Day weekend. But I had something much more important to do today...I went to a funeral for a friend.
I've known Brian and Marilyn since I moved here 10 years ago. We attended a "start-up" church -- a congregation that met in a middle-school cafeteria until we could build a church building. When the new building finally became a reality, Marilyn and I were on the "preschool task force." A community preschool was very important to the congregation, and we were thrilled to be able to give seed to the dream. At that time, I had no plans on being involved with the preschool after the building was built, but Marilyn was the one who urged me to become one of the teachers. And look where I am today...thanks for giving me the push I needed, Marilyn!
Brian and Marilyn have 3 children; Jordan, Jaxson, and Joshua. Jordan is currently in high school, and the boys both attended the preschool several years ago. The boys are adopted and only a year apart -- like typical boys, they could be a handful. My son used to babysit Jaxson and Joshua. They loved playing with Matt and I know Matt really enjoyed rough-housing with the boys. But what he remembers most about all the times he babysat for the family, were when Brian would pick him up and drop him off (pre-drivers' license era). Matt said he and Brian would have these really interesting discussions about all sorts of different things. I remember at times I would hear the car pull up, but Matt wouldn't come inside until later -- their talks could last and last and last... I also was so grateful that Matt had such a positive male role-model in his life.
Brian was an amazing dad. The way he was with his sons was incredible. Jordan and her dad were especially close. My daughter Kelly and Jordan went on several high school youth service trips together. Brian always made sure his kids got to all their activities, whether sports, church, play-dates, whatever. He totally supported Marilyn when she decided to go back to school. He was one of the easiest people to talk with -- always had a smile on his face and ready to help out wherever he was needed.
Four years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. Although not a lot of people knew...his appearance didn't change, even though there were times that he really struggled with the pain. I think Marilyn carried most of the pain, anger, and worries at that time for both of them. Then, about 2 years ago, he took a downward turn. His weight loss was dramatic, but again, his personality never changed and he was still smiling. A few weeks ago the family took a trip to his hometown of Portland, Oregon. He became so weak that they had to come home earlier than planned. Into the hospital he went. A week and a half ago he came home, and a few days later he died.
This morning I was at the church early to help set-up for the luncheon afterward. There was a table set up with photos of Brian and his family, and people were quietly talking to the family and each other. I had put my purse in a cabinet in the main office and went in to grab it before the service began. I heard the door open and Marilyn came in -- I'm sure she needed some time alone. I felt like I was invading her privacy and tried to sneak out but she turned around and saw me. The pain in her face was unbearable...she clung to me and wept and wept. What does one say to comfort in a time like that? I really can't remember exactly what I said, and between both of our tears and sobs I hope I gave her just a little bit of strength.
It was a beautiful service -- the music, the flowers, the testimonials. What I won't forget is Jaxson and Joshua walking up the center aisle carrying the cross and the candle, Pastor Tom's emotional voice, a co-worker of Brian who said he was such a "spirited soul," and Marilyn and Jordon holding on to each other so tightly, as if physically supporting each other, as they walked down the aisle. In good ol' Lutheran tradition there was plenty of homemade food. I know some people think that having a meal after a funeral is inappropriate, but I believe the contrary. It is a time for the family to be surrounded and supported by friends and family of the deceased. It is a time where it is not only ok, but encouraged, to talk about how much they will miss and mourn their loved one. It is a time of comfort.
Good bye Brian...we miss you.