I don't think I've ever experienced such sadness and joy in one day.
Chuck's funeral was last Friday morning. The most moving part, and I think I speak for everyone, was the eulogy by our friend Tim. It was perfect--funny and poignant. I can't believe he was able to maintain the composure to deliver it; he didn't choke up until the very last word. I thought of Elton John singing "Candle in the Wind" at Princess Di's funeral--how did he do it? Tim really hit it out of the park. He gave us all a wonderful gift.
Tim relayed a story about Chuck that I think you'll get a kick out of. Unless he was at work or had a special occasion, our boy Chuckie spent his entire life wearing Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers. Years ago, he got wind of a rumor that they were about to discontinue his favorite line of white high-tops, so Chuck got proactive. He had his wife, Carmela, get online (Chuck wasn't much for the Internet) and order something like 28 pairs, based on his calculated life expectancy. The Converse people called the house. "Did you really mean to order 28 pairs, all size 10?" they asked. Yup. Chuck would be set for life.
I think Carmela said there were nine pairs left. Chuck was buried in a new pair, and the pallbearers all got a pair to wear as they carried their brother, uncle, and friend. At 6'4", Tim had to rush order his size 12's online. I guess Converse didn't discontinue them after all, they probably thought twice after Chuck's massive order.
The final good-bye at the grave site is always the toughest, and three generations of my family--my ex and I, our kids, and our grandson sobbed together for our beloved Chuckie. After the service, Chuck's parents' house was filled with food, family and friends. As things were winding up there, we decided we'd head over to the Washington Tavern. On the way, two carloads of us stopped at Chuck and Carmela's house so Carmela and their daughter, Jess, could change into something more comfortable. The eight of us filed in and before we knew it, a spontaneous party had erupted. We never got out of there.
The vibe was more relaxed than the after-service gathering and the beer continued to flow. People would laugh and cry, often at the same time, but mostly the house was filled with laughter. Some of us were in the kitchen; I mostly sat on the living room couch and took in the scene. Chuck's Homer Simpson doll wearing his New York Giants hat... flowers replacing the oxygen tanks that had been lined up against the wall... Chuck's guitar, which had been idle for months, propped back in the corner... That was all it took to make me tear up. But when I closed my eyes, all I heard was sounds of joy.
We broke into Chuck's album collection--yes, with an actual, operational turntable!--and blasted a good dose of Little Feat, Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky and For Everyman, and Warren Zevon's self-titled album and Excitable Boy. Jess and Courtney have known each other their whole lives, and it touched my heart to see our daughters laughing and dancing and acting crazy. During a slow song, Courtney took a break and sank in on the couch next to me. "This may sound weird, Mom," she said, "but this is the greatest night of my life!"
I could see why she'd say that; she was surrounded by people who'd known and loved her since birth and she loved them as well. Forget any generation gap--we're all dear friends. It was a magical evening. By having such a blast, we were doing exactly what Chuck would have wanted.
And the flowers... they were all over. Jess told us that the night before, she twirled around the living room, in the middle of flowers everywhere. "I felt like a princess," she said. "My dad still made me feel like a princess."
He made us all feel like royalty, honey.