By Mary Cucarola – 6/1/18
“In the dangling conversation and the superficial sighs, the borders of our lives.” Simon & Garfunkel
The lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s song, The Dangling Conversation, could be the most beautiful lyrics ever written about the discomfort of loss. When I listened to this song the other night, I thought about the funeral I went to last week, and the discomfort I experienced.
It was a funeral for the deacon, who assisted the priest, at my son’s funeral. Deacon Don St. Louis was the dad of Cody’s best friend in grade/middle school at St. Anne’s, Andy St. Louis. I’ve known him and his wife, Connie, a long time – faithful, admirable, and salt of the earth folks. Our kids grew up together since kindergarten, played soccer, basketball, and golf together, and stayed friends even though they went to different high schools. Don died rather quickly from cancer – such a tragic loss of a good man.
The past, present, and future collided in my thoughts as I sat in the pew by myself. The funeral was precisely like Cody’s – a beautiful funeral mass, filled to its capacity. Where Cody’s was filled with lots of young adults and family, Don’s was filled with lots of clergy, including the archbishop, and family.
The theme felt the same – immense love and loss.
As I observed Andy, his mom and family file in with the casket, it brought back painful memories of the day I had to do that same thing over 4 years ago. Andy was at Cody’s funeral and he had much the same look on his face as he walked in – a look of deep sadness. I thought about how much I liked Andy and how much he reminded me of Cody – all of the good parts about Cody.
Andy is a good golfer (like Cody was) and is actually a golf pro, as well as a high school golf coach and teacher at Dakota Ridge. Cody was always extremely proud of Andy’s accomplishments – he was one of the best 5A high school golfers in the state. As I observed Andy sitting in the pew next to his mom, I wondered to myself what if Cody had not become an addict? Would he be married? Would he have a family? Would he have a career? Would he be happy? All of the what ifs crossed my thoughts and my heart ached for my son and for things to be different.
Cody and Andy had similar childhoods – Catholic school, sports, friends, and a loving family. I believe the first time Cody got drunk (at age 13) was with Andy, in our basement, but Andy didn’t become addicted to alcohol and drugs, like Cody did. I contemplated what was different between them as I sat in my pew, on the verge of tears, trying to hold them in.
Was there trauma in Cody’s life I never knew about or did he just get the bad gene?
After the funeral service, I waited for Connie and Andy, as the casket was being lifted into the hearse, and the scene replayed in my mind of Cody’s casket being lifted into the hearse. I have limited memory of the day of Cody’s funeral, but I do remember how seeing him in a casket made me feel. There is surely no word to describe that feeling – perhaps despair gets close, but it was much worse than that, and no mother should have to feel it, ever.
I gave Connie a hug, as she was headed to the reception – she said to me,
“Don and Cody are probably having a party in heaven”.
I thought to myself that’s probably true. Cody liked to party, so why not in heaven, too. She kindly asked me to come in for the luncheon – I nodded, but I knew I wouldn’t go. Andy gave me a big hug and we cried together for both his dad and Cody. I went to my car and sat sobbing. All the what ifs came into my thoughts once again. I became overwhelmed with sadness.
And then, anger. Such is the nature of grief.
I watched others from a distance walking around effortlessly with their children, friends and family, in and out of the church. I felt angry their lives were still intact and mine was not. I knew many of them . I bristled at the injustice of my son’s death at age 26 – he hadn’t even begun his life yet. It wasn’t fair to me or him. It felt as if I was the only one who understood this deep loss – this defining alteration in my life I can never get back. I struggled to gain my composure, while I drove away.
I know how uncomfortable my loss is to others, especially to those I don’t see often. People struggle with what to say – I understand and accept it. I struggle with what to say, too. Losing a child is the loneliest, most desolate journey a mother can take, and no one can understand it, who hasn’t shared the experience, and they shouldn’t be expected to understand it.
Conversations are uncomfortable and superficial and at times, are left to dangle. You know what, it’s okay. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, because the loss of a child cannot be fixed or solved. I am constantly balancing the realities of my grief and happiness and it won’t change, no matter what anyone says.
I always welcome love and support, and maybe, just maybe, in that mutual acceptance of discomfort in a conversation gone silent, a genuine space will open up to truly connect with each other, and in my opinion, that human connection is a sacred opportunity.
Mary Cucarola, Founder