She had timed their arrival at the funeral home perfectly. She didn’t want to be so early that they were in and out quickly. She wanted her children to see how many people had been touched by the man they were saying good-bye to. She was grateful that the line to talk to the family had not yet made it out the front door. The biting cold and the snow/sleet mix that was currently falling would have made for a miserable wait. The weather conditions would have been an acceptable reason to skip the visitation, but she wanted to be there. She wanted her children to see the impact one person could make, especially in a community as small as theirs.
The three of them huddled together against the cold that swooshed in every time the door opened. Within five minutes of their arrival, the line was out of the building. The door was being held open, but no one waiting inside complained. There was one thought in the forefront of their collective minds – comfort the family suffering such a great loss.
Bits of conversation started to drift toward them as they waited. She smiled a little to herself. This is why they had come, to hear the stories being told about Robert. And there were so many stories to be told.
“I remember when Mr. Parker coached my baseball team. He was always so patient with me.”
“Did you know that Robert was in a band when he was younger. He played piano. He couldn’t read music, but he could play almost anything he heard on the radio.”
“Remember the big wind storm in ’98? Robert heard that half of our roof had been blown away. He came right over and helped me get a tarp. A week later, he was helping me put the new roof on. He wouldn’t let me pay him, just wanted me to buy the beer that day.”
She looked at her children to see if they were taking all of this in. She could read on their faces every time a story surprised them. They had known Robert well, but there was so much about him they didn’t know. She leaned over to whisper to them, pointing out that at it seemed like half of the town was there. She watched as they looked around in awe at the number of people present.
They were slowly making their way toward the front of the line to speak to the family. She looked back and saw that the line was still out the door. It seemed that the weather hadn’t kept anyone from being there.
“He helped me build my pinewood derby car and his sons weren’t even scouts anymore. He offered because my dad wasn’t around to do it with me.”
“Did you know he still called Sally his bride? They were married almost fifty years and he still called her that.”
“I wonder how many sports he officiated for and coached. It seemed like every time one of my kids was playing he was there doing something. He would even just come to watch. He said he loved to be around the kids and loved sports almost as much.”
It was their turn to talk to Sally. She started to introduce her children, but Sally stopped her.
“I know who they are. Robert talked about them a lot. He told me that McKenna is going to be a fabulous volleyball player. He loved to watch her play. And he said that Samuel is a talented artist. I’d love to see some of his work.”
Her children stood there, with shock on their faces. This woman, who was grieving, knew who they were. She even seemed to be trying to comfort them. She was letting them know that they mattered to Robert. The mother and children each gave the widow a hug as they passed by her. They spoke to each family member gathered there, expressing their condolences.
The family of three turned toward the back of the room, preparing to leave. The room was packed with neighbors, friends and family members. They slowly made their way to the door, greeting people as they passed, occasionally getting wrapped up in hugs, comforting people as they could. They reached the door, which was still being held open for the people who were waiting in the line, which was wrapped around the exterior of the building.
She walked with her children through the now heavy, wet snow, an arm around each of them. She hoped that the message had been received. One man had touched the life of each of the more than four hundred people who had been at the visitation. She wanted them to realize that the smallest actions can make the biggest impact.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @craftyjhawk