The last time I saw Lavearn. Monday, April 18, 2022. I was just stepping out of that administrative hall, just after clocking in, when my personal phone rang. It was Lavearn. She didn’t use the company phone number – and she never answered my calls or responded to my texts when I used her number. Come over to the library, she said. I said okay, and hung up. I didn’t know what she wanted, to gossip maybe, or complain, to show me some atrocity committed by the students, or an area of the library not properly cleaned by the overnight custodial crew.
She unlocked the library doors and handed me a standard white shopping bag. “What is it,” I asked. “Open it,” she said. I turned it over instead to see the label on the box through the thin bag. Little Debbie Mini Apple Pies. We both laughed. She had given me a couple the week before. They were delicious. Now I had a whole box. “I bought six boxes,” she said. “I’m giving you one, so I don’t eat them all myself”. She laughed again, locking the library doors, and I left.
She wasn’t at work on Tuesday or Wednesday. Thursday, the police found her in her home after my supervisor called them. She was pronounced dead that morning.
And just like that.
You go from worrying about someone because you haven’t seen or heard from them in two days – she wasn’t on vacation, and she hadn’t called in sick – to her being wiped from your life in an instant.
It struck me hard. The suddenness. The finality. That’s life. That’s death. My conscious mind “waned philosophical” after the announcement as I semi-processed the reactions of everyone else in the room. People die. It isn’t shocking. We should stop expecting death to happen the way we expect, and when we expect it to, especially.
It didn’t help. This horrible feeling – a mixture of queasiness and dread – slid slowly from my heart to my stomach, unaffected by my emotional maturity. Maybe it was because I was asked to call Ann, a coworker, and inform her. That went poorly. I had no experience with breaking sad news to anyone. And I am blunt, almost ham-fisted. “Passed away “would not flow easily from my lips and the phrase felt…light. Somehow. Disingenuous. It almost felt almost untrue. The gentleness of those words did not match the impact of Lavearn’s death on me. “Lavearn died” and “Lavearn is dead” were the best I could do.
Levearn’s death hit me harder than I expected but as hard as it should have. And…
I am genuinely bothered by Lavearn’s death, visitation, and funeral and everything surrounding them.
I don’t want to go to the funeral.
I have never been to a funeral before.
My mother is still alive. As are my brother and sisters. My biological father is absentee; he may be dead already, or not. My stepfather is still alive, even though he has tried to drink himself to death a few years ago. My current stepfather is still alive (he has a host of medical problems). My grandparents died before I was born.
I will have to attend some funerals for these people unless I die before all of them. But it hasn’t happened yet. Levearn is the first friend to die. And…I really do not want to go.
Niles says you don’t go for yourself. You go to support the family. And that makes sense. They don’t know me but it will mean something that I am there, that I and other people cared enough to show up. And I want to show up, for Lavearn.
I don’t want to see her in the coffin. I was fine with the idea of going to the funeral until Ann mentioned it would be an open casket.
I don’t want my last memory of Lavearn to be of her in a coffin. And I don’t want the image of Lavearn in a coffin in my memory banks. Why would I want to see that? There is something wrong with me, apparently, because Ann says the only reason she might go to the funeral, or the service is so she can see “how she looks” in the coffin. She made the notion sound completely normal.
So, there is something wrong with me. Apparently.
I want to go, to honor Lavearn, because she was my friend, and I will miss her. I do not want to go because I do not want the experience and I do not want that type of closure.
I will regret going and I will regret not going.
The funeral is tomorrow.