He leans in, whispering, “You can come to me too, and I’ll make sure that you get Mommy.”
“Okay,” Lizzie and Daisy both whisper at the same time, and then the doorbell rings.
We get up, put our jackets on, and one by one file into the black limo that has come to take us to the funeral home. We arrive before everyone else. “We get an hour with him, and then they will open the door,” Adrian says as Judy grabs her tissue and dabs her eyes.
I look around the funeral home. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, not sure where he is. I haven’t seen him since he kissed me goodbye four days earlier. His last words to me were, “Call you when I can.” That phone call never came.
I follow my in-laws to the big brown door that is closed. “I want to go in before the girls.” Everyone turns to look at me.
“We can keep them in the lobby,” says the lady who greeted us at the door. She told me her name, but I just didn’t listen.
I nod at her as she turns to ask the girls if they want hot chocolate. Daisy’s eyes get big as Lizzie turns to look at me. I nod my head, giving her permission, so she can go with the woman.
The doors open, and I don’t even know what to expect. I’ve never been to a funeral. Never known anyone well enough to pay my last respects. Judy and Adrian walk in first, followed by Ethan, and Elliot waits with me. I step foot into the room, and it’s so cold that I shiver. The smell of flowers hits me right away, making me turn my head. The number of flowers and wreaths shocks me; the whole room is almost full. Some wreaths blocking others. Rows and rows of brown chairs line the room, all facing toward the front of the room. My eyes land on the brown wooden casket at the front of the room. The open half showing you the white satin inside. I walk down the aisle toward him, and then my eyes land on him. Eric. I can’t take another step forward because my knees give out, and I fall. Elliot isn’t fast enough to hold me up, and my knee lands with a thud. But the pain doesn’t matter because nothing could take the place of the pain in my heart. The sound of wailing fills the room as I look up at my dead husband.
I feel arms around me; I feel myself lifted; I feel myself almost floating. He isn’t the Eric who kissed me goodbye; he isn’t the Eric who I made promises to; he isn’t the Eric who made all my dreams come true. This isn’t him.
The man with makeup caked on his face isn’t my Eric. My sobs overtake my body as I look at him, expecting him to open his eyes. Expecting something, anything but this. “I want the casket closed,” I say, my voice soft. “I want it closed.”
“Samantha,” my father-in-law starts, “it’s—”
I shake my head. “I don’t want the kids to see him like that,” I say softly. I know that for me they wouldn’t even consider it, but for the girls, they would move heaven and earth. “They need to remember him alive and smiling, not like that,” I say, pointing at the casket.
“Dad,” Ethan says after me, “I agree.”
“Me too,” Elliot says from beside me. “Close it.”
He just nods at us, then walks to the man standing in the corner. The man looks at him as they have a hushed conversation and then just nods his head. “Do you need some water?” Ethan says to me, and I nod. I don’t bother listening to what else he says; instead, I get up and go to the casket. Standing before the brown box, I look at him, really look at him. You see some bruising under the makeup, and his nose is a little swollen. His hands are folded over his stomach, resting on his black suit. The suit he wore when we got married. Why? I ask him in my own head. Why did you do it? I ask him, hoping I can hear him whisper something to me, whisper anything back. To answer my questions, to give me something; anything to make me understand why he did what he did. Why he left me with so many fucking questions and not one answer.
The man comes over to close the casket. Eric’s face disappears slowly, the shadow filling his face till the casket finally shuts. “I’m sorry for your loss,” the man says, nodding at me. “If at any time you want it open, we can open it back up.” I turn around now, looking at the chairs that will fill up as soon as the people start coming in. Ethan consoles my mother-in-law, and Elliot stands where we were just sitting, his hands in his pockets.