Before the funeral, he is curled up in a little ball on his daughter’s bed. Outside, Saturday happens. Lawnmowers whine, trucks bang by; his subdivision is subdivided.

Days before the funeral, he was just living in normal dread. It was the dread brought about by the usual — you know; a global pandemic that unleashed an invisible killer, a smaller subset of the population that wanted to ignore the killer and yell at people who believed in invisible killers. And very real cops killing very real people. And protests about cops killing people.

He finds himself now as the official officiant of his friend’s father’s funeral. He loves their family, stood up in their wedding, danced with them at his own daughter’s wedding. When their 82-year-old dad died, they asked if he’d emcee the memorial.

He’s curled up in a ball, but what about what they’re going through? In the middle of all this insanity, they’ve been dished out an extra heaping helping of hurt.

Now the funeral is just an hour away and his suit’s in the next room. He wonders what color mask he should wear to complete the ensemble: suit, gloves, goggles, hat …

It’s all surreal. Everything seems out of control, including the font on his phone that randomly switches from big to small letters as he transcribes his notes.

The seemingly 19th nervous poop of the day rushes him off to the toilet. His tummy’s holding him hostage. Negotiate or no? Stomach Stockholm Syndrome.

His brain tells a different tale, “You’ve got this! No, you’ve never done this before, but the bar is very low; they don’t expect much.”

Shower, no need to shave (the mask will cover that).

Downstairs, the TV blares protest coverage. His gut momentarily ceases protesting.

He texts his daughter, asking her to send light. She texts back an emoji of a lightbulb. It actually does lighten his mood.

Printing out his notes, he voices the key phrases aloud, like he’s preparing to emcee a Celestial Convention.

A quick digital check-in with his mentor calms things considerably. The thought about writing all this down starts to bubble underneath all the heaviness. Maybe he can socially distance himself by writing in the third person? But will it show the intense empathy he has for his friends?

A mild panic in the car as he realizes his suit still smells like the last event, possibly even a little BO. But no one‘s hugging today; he should be OK.

An old guy in an even older car drives by going the opposite way. It’s followed by a young guy in a brand new sports car. It’s a dichotomy that he only partially understands.

Passing an auto dealership, a truck with a banner reads Fill a Ford for Midland. That was two or three disasters ago. The Everythingness of this all, this whole, this pandemonium, er, pandemic threatens to swallow him again.

The local nursery is packed with plant patrons. It’s growing season amidst the dying season.

In the funeral home parking lot, the clear plastic gloves don’t slide on easily. He feels like an awkward lunch lady in a hopefully not-too-smelly suit.

Inside, a dozen or so masked family members sit in small quarantined groups spread across the room.

“Welcome everybody. We are here today, gathered in a celebration of life, the joy of remembering …” he starts.

“This is a weird time. And it’s important to acknowledge that. We’re all dealing with so much. It almost feels like adding this on top of it is too much. But … but then again, there really was no good time…”

A daughter, another daughter, a grandson speak, some songs; from Annie, Elton John, Kermit the Frog even. It’s lovely and livecast across the planet (and surely, across the Universe).

He tells the story about wanting to introduce his own mother to their father; that’s how impressed he was with the man.

“Even physicists agree that matter and energy cannot be destroyed. Nor can your dad’s love. There is so much more to this journey than is apparent to the eye.”

This is the kind of service he hopes he has when that time comes. Singing, laughter, love, some tears … sure, Kermit too. He wishes he knew the guy better, but oddly, feels like he does now.

He ends with a quote from the youngest daughter — now a grown and married woman — and says,

“I asked a lot of people for advice on how to officiate a memorial service and the best answer was, ‘No one ever said after a funeral, I wish the officiant had talked longer.’”

No longer weighed down by the terrible times, he exits to the parking lot with his dear friend. They say how much they miss each other, share some sweet personal news and look forward to hanging out at lunch, at each other’s houses, on assignment together soon.

Getting into his car, his phone buzzes with two texts telling him the SpaceX rocket launched two guys off into space right as the funeral was underway. He smiles and thinks a third soul was launched today too.

Both life, and what comes after life, is a fun mystery. And so is the portrait of the man’s dog, dressed in all his military regalia. It sat at a place of honor at the dais. He forgot to ask what that was all about.

Pulling into his driveway, he smiles a final time realizing that it may just be a mystery left to history.

 

“David Rotan, 82, of Rochester Hills passed away peacefully May 25, 2020, a sunbeam spilling in through the window as he departed this life.”

Leslie Ellis Rotan