So I just walked all the way downtown, ordered myself an iced chai tea:
Took my laptop out of my backpack, noticed that I only had about forty-five percent of my battery life left and thought it might be a good idea to plug my laptop in and let it charge while I wrote my blog post only to realized that I left my laptop charger in my bedroom.
Luckily for me
I have a wonderful little sister who was kind enough to brave the clutter of my bedroom, retrieve my laptop charger and drive it down to me. So I guess you could say that today’s blog post is brought to you by one of our sponsors, also known as my sister. If you see her, thank her.
So here’s a Rosie story for the day. This is actually a story that took place on Christmas Day. We got Rosie a new bone to chew on. She was really excited about it and despite the festivities going on around her she laid down on the floor and got to work:
Rosie often forgets how old she is and five minutes later she was done. Not just with the bone, but also with being awake:
Out cold, with the bone still between her paws.
Shall we proceed?
Guess what? If you haven’t read if you haven’t already read How Gabe Met Stacy, The Wake (Part I), The Wake (Part II), and The Funeral (Part I) please do so. (And on a similar note, some names have been changed due to privacy concerns, but you already knew that)
On the way over to the cemetery, Kathryn put some music on in the car. The woman singer sounded familiar, like I had heard her somewhere before. I asked Kathryn who we were listening to. She told me it was singer, Julia Darling, she’s a local artist and friend of Kathryn’s. Kathryn used to play her in the car when she’d drive me and Stacy to Newark after the diner over the summer. Seriously, check her out. I think she sounds similar to Tegan and Sara but judge for yourself. I’m not really sure why she isn’t more popular.
Once we arrived I could see the crowd gathering near the top of the hill in the cemetery. We took our time meandering up the hill, there wasn’t any need to rush and a majority of the people at the funeral were either extremely sleep deprived, elderly or both. I don’t think anyone was in a rush, and despite the overcast weather it didn’t look like it was about to rain anytime soon.
As we approached Stacy’s burial site, a man gave us each a flower. Kathryn received a white carnation, I was handed a pink rose.
The crowd finally came together and the priest opened with a prayer. Then two members of the honor guard representing the United States Air Force gave their final salute, they were joined by Stacy’s brother who, I believe, is also a member of the Air Force and one of Stacy’s friends (potentially a relative) a state trooper joined.
I was fighting back tears, not because I was even remotely self conscious, I was just so sick of crying. I noticed Kathryn was crying so I hugged her. The two of us made a bit of an odd couple. See Kathryn –when not wearing three inch heels (which she did do at the wake because Stacy was always pestering her to wear them)– is 6’4″ while I, on the other hand, boast about being a whopping 5’5″ when in reality I’m just a little over 5’4″. When I hugged her I barely came up to her chest, and when she cried I could feel her tears like light rain drizzling down on to me. We must have been quite the sight to be seen.
While I was fixing the notes I had taken throughout the past few days into something that closely resembles an outline
I remembered writing down that when one of the honor guard members presented Stacy’s flag to her brother, he said something to him. I could only make out the first half so I decided to do a little research on military funerals. I had no idea how much meaning and symbolism stands behind all of the rituals they perform. For instances, when they fold the flag, each fold has a different meaning. Even down to the way the flag is presented to the next of kin, or family member has significance.
Afterwards a woman announced that the service had ended and that the flowers we had received when we arrived at the cemetery were to be placed on Stacy’s casket as a final tribute to her. She said that there would be a reception at Stacy’s parents home and all were welcome to join them and continue to share stories about our time with Stacy.
I got in line in front of Kathryn, my hands trembling, and slowly moved forward toward the casket as the flowers continued to pile on top of it. I placed my flower in the middle and wiped aways the tears running down my face and collecting near the sides of my nose. I stepped back, assembled myself again and waited for Kathryn. We returned to her car silently, arm in arm.
I wasn’t too keen on going to the Nowak’s. Although the invitation had been extended to everyone, I thought it might be more geared toward family and close family friends but then I remembered how reluctant I had been to go to Stacy’s wake and how I was surprised at how comforted I was by the event, and I knew Kathryn really wanted to go so I decided it would be best to tag along.
We pulled up on to an already overly crowded suburban street and parked in one of the few remaining spots. We were some of the first people there. The house was cluttered, and I noticed that the blue carpet hadn’t been vacuumed. I was a little relieved by the house’s appearance. It was lived in and loved. I don’t think anyone would expect a clean house under the circumstances. It was further proof to meet of the already prevalent humanity of Stacy’s family. There were chairs randomly scattered throughout the floor of the house, I took my seat in a red camping chair.
I felt uncomfortable, like I was invading a private party or something. When I feel awkward, especially when I’m around people who are older than me, I tend to clam up. I smiled at the people who passed by me but I spent a majority of my time observing my surroundings, occassionally whipping out my small brown notebook from my back pocket to jot things that I didn’t want to forget.
As more people arrived, I noticed that about one out of every four men who walked through the door was carrying some sort of beer. Kathryn nudged my knee, “We should help them,” pointing to one of Stacy’s brother carrying a case of beer into the other room, “…by drinking some of that.” I nodded and we got up. It didn’t even occur to me that Kathryn was going to drive me home and probably shouldn’t drink but she caught my own fear before I did adding, “Two of these is nothing for me. Trust me.”
and I did.
So I grabbed a plate of food and a beer and returned to my seat in the living room. The room was packed by older family members. An older woman introduced herself to Kathryn, “I’m Gary’s aunt. Err… Gary Junior’s aunt. ” She sighed, “you know, names are confusing…” Another woman entered the room and asked the woman speaking to us if she remembered her.” The woman said yes, but she couldn’t put her finger on her name. I don’t remember who this woman was but when she reminded Stacy’s aunt who she was, Stacy’s aunt remembered her and said, “Wow it’s been so long! It seems like the only time the whole family gets together anymore is for funerals and weddings.”
Jill, Stacy’s wife, came over to say hello. We talked for a bit. Kathryn told her about the memorial service that was taking place at The Center later on the week and told her that she and the rest of Stacy’s family was more than welcome to join us.
I don’t know how the conversation was sparked but Jill told us that the reason the priest was chosen to lead Stacy’s funeral was because he was the only one who would be willing to honor her as Stacy.
It broke my heart a little to know that there was resistance from the clergy at such a tragic time but then again, we’re dealing with the Catholic Church here. The same Catholic Church that said that the perverted, horrific sex scandals that plague the church are not the result of celibacy but by homosexuality. So the fact that Jill was able to find someone who was even remotely understanding about her predicament was a “blessing” in and of itself.
Jill left us and continued to make her rounds among the surround people.
Eventually John, one of Stacy’s brothers, who judging by the somewhat crooked smile on his face may have already been a little drunk, told me that I needed to eat more or at least have another beer. I smiled and told him that I was fine, because I was. One beer was plenty for me and I don’t like to eat when I’m nervous but I wasn’t about to get into any of that so I obliged and made up another small plate of food that I picked at for the rest of the time there.
I remained silent and kept my post as a faithful observer. Kathryn was more daring and had taken to talking to the people around us. I could have followed her but the only thing I wanted to do was sit in the red camping chair and drink my beer. I heard Stacy’s aunt ask an older gentleman across the room if he was still fixing up old cars. He said no, age had finally caught up to him, but he still had his 1913 Model-T and pulled a picture out of his wallet and handed it to her. The man’s wife added that at a recent car show they attended, a lady had asked if he had bought the car new. Everyone thought that was hilarious and it took me a few moments before I realized another older man, now in possession of the picture of the Model T was trying to show it to me. I apologized for my negligence and took the picture and smiled, repeating a comment that someone had just made about the car because I couldn’t think of anything else to say and I didn’t want them to think that I was any ruder. In my defense, I had forgotten to take an Adderall before I left and had pretty much checked out since the burial, I couldn’t concentrate on anything to save my life but they didn’t know that.
As time passed I realized that no matter whether or not the people around me called Stacy, Stacy or if they called her Gary we were all here for the same reasons, to mourn our friend and to celebrate her life.
And then about an hour after we arrived, our time with the Nowak’s had come to it’s end. I hugged Jill goodbye, and told her not to hesitate to reach me if there was anything she needed.
Right before we walked out of the front door, I came face to face with Stacy’s mother for the first time. She was small and delicate compared to her sons walking around the house and looked worn out beyond belief. I figured now was a better time than any to break my silence and after two days of lurking around in the background, I finally introduced myself to Stacy’s mother.
“Hi. I’m Gabriel Hooghuis. Stacy was a dear friend of mine.” I paused, I didn’t know what else to say but I felt like that was definitely not enough so I quickly added on, “I just wanted to thank you for letting us mourn and celebrate her life with you.”
We shook hands and as she let go of my hand, she spoke exhaustion and sorrow was clearly displayed in her eyes and all she said to me was, “Hi. I’m… I’m Stacy’s mother.”
And Kathryn and I left the house. We found Stacy’s other brother, Matthew outside. He had changed into jeans and was putting his uniform into the trunk of his car. Kathryn went up to him, I stood behind her, almost hiding. They talked for a few seconds and hugged before he pointed to me, “You’re leaving and I don’t even think we’ve even met yet.”
I explained who I was again, fumbling over my words, “I’m Gabe Hooghuis. I knew Stacy from The City.” I realized that probably didn’t make any sense to him so I continued gesturing to Kathryn, “We all met at the same place.” and finally tagging on, “KC introduced us.” which probably only added to the confusion because I’m not sure if he knew KC went to GIP drop-in meetings. I shook his hands, offered my condolences once more and we left.
Once I was home, I changed out of my shirt and tie and into jammie pants. I was exhausted, I didn’t even bother writing. I spent my afternoon moseying around my house. I kept thinking of what the priest had said about honoring Stacy by going out in the world and teaching people all of the valuable lessons that she taught me.
I think she taught me four major things:
1. Be yourself –but don’t take yourself too seriously.
2. Do what you love and fuck anyone who tells you otherwise.
3. Keep what’s important to you as close as you can.
4. This world is not the same without her. I’m really going to miss her.
I already do.
Despite the inclement weather, I’m going to The Center tonight for Stacy’s Memorial Service. If you’d like to attend you can get additional information by clicking here. I hope to see some of you there tonight and for the rest of you, I’ll see you tomorrow.