My eyes found the coat rack and I made my way over, trying not to be seen by others but it was too late. They all knew who I was as they looked at me with sad eyes. There were so many people here. I crept out of the hallway and back into the lobby where I was immediately greeted by the familiar faces of a good family friend, Tammie, and her sister. I remember the way Tammie's hug felt. It was one of the saddest, deepest hugs I had felt but somehow it brought me comfort all at the same time.
Seconds later, Brent, the director, approached me in his suit and walked me through what the remainder of the day looked like. With his trust in my approval, I was again calmed. We were moved into a side room and minutes started to pass as though they were seconds. The lobby emptied out, there was a deafening hush, and we were ushered out to the first two pews.
With my brother on one side of me and my dad on the other, I looked outward in front of me at my mom's rich, brown casket. The smell of lavender and pink flowers flooded the air. I stared into the picture at the front of the chapel of my mom's pretty blue eyes. I still couldn't believe this moment was existing. That it was happening.
There were tears. There was laughter. I remember the moment I went up to the podium. I looked out at the chapel and for the first time, I saw it. The entire chapel was full. With family members, with neighbors, with good family friends, with friends of mine, and with people who had never even met her but knew her through stories. My mom touched the lives of so many. And this was proof of it all.
The strength to speak in front of all these people about the loss of the greatest, most important figure in my life somehow found its way into my heart. But in that moment, it didn't feel as though she was gone. It felt like she was right there behind me, showing me the way. Showing me how to get up there and speak with courage. I didn't feel alone. It was the last time I really had her there with me. Physically. So close.