I thought hard about where I was going and tried to mentally prepare for what lay in store. But I really couldn't set myself up for something that sad.
I found the Funeral Home off of Route 3 quite easily. As I pulled into the lot, a man clad in a black suit asked me, "Are you going to be in the cemetary procession?"
"Yes, I am," I replied.
"Okay, please park behind that blue Taurus," he pointed behind him.
Thanking him, I circled the lot and parked where he'd asked me to.
Another man opened my car door for me. Peering in, he said, "How do you like your Xterra?"
Grinning, I said, "I love it. It's my first car ever, so I'm in love with it."
He laughed and said, "True stereotypical owner. You've got the bike in there and everything," gesturing toward my road bike that rested in the back.
I smiled and looked up at him. He was cute, probably about my age. "Can't be an Xterra owner and not be athletic," I said.
He grinned back at me and I got out of the car. As I did, I pulled off my sunglasses and spotted Mary, Tara's Mom. She saw me as well.
I walked toward her and said softly, "Hey you."
She gave a half smile and put her hands on my arms.
"I don't know what to say," I said sadly to Mary.
Gathering me in her arms, she said, "You don't have to say anything. Just be with us. Enjoy the sun, the people. It's going to mean so much to Tara that you came today..." her voice wavered and as I squeezed her back, I felt her begin to cry quietly.
Stepping back, I looked into her eyes. She smiled at me.
"Go inside, join everyone," she said.
Nodding, I kissed her on the cheek and walked into the funeral home. There were a LOT of people there. I entered a room where I saw people milling around. As soon as I stepped in, I saw John laid out in the front of the room.
I didn't approach him, however. There were constantly people all around and I didn't want to intrude. So I looked through photo albums of their family that were on display.
Finally the funeral director announced that it was time to head to Mass and asked that we say our last good-byes and head to our vehicles. I glanced back at John and saw Mary up there. She smoothed his hair and patted his jacket, saying, "I love you, John. If you need anything, ever, you just ask me, okay? I'm here. I love you..."
My eyes welling with tears, I walked out to my car. As I did that, I ran into Tara. "Hey," I said.
"Hey," she said back. She looked tired.
I gathered her up in my arms. "How are you doing?" I whispered.
"Okay," she whispered back. "It's just so hard..."
She went into the room to say her last good-bye to John and I waited in my car. Then we all drove to church and had Mass. Tara, her brother Jim and sister Mary each gave a reading. When it was over the family filed out behind the casket and then the people followed behind. When it came time for Mary to pass my bench, I gave her a hug and kiss, same with Tara.
Finally we made our way to the cemetary. I stood beside Tara as the priest said the final words for the resting ground. It was a beautiful burial area, so at least the family would have a nice place to go.
When it was over, the family began to disperse and Mary and Tara's sister and brother said their last good-byes. Tara and I walked up.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to say," Tara said to me sadly.
"There's not really anything proper," I said. "It is what it is. John knows you love him, that's what matters."
Nodding, her eyes filled with tears, Tara and I walked toward my car. I took her hand and we walked slowly.
"Can we stop at a store?" Tara asked me. "I need to get beer for the reception."
I said "of course" and we drove off. In true "Liz and Tara" fashion, we got lost. It wasn't until we pulled over that we realized 4 cars had followed us, thinking we were going to the reception at John's fiance's house.
"Uh, Tara..." I said.
"Oh, gawd," she groaned.
We explained to everyone what we were doing and then finally made our way to a store and Trish the fiance's house.
I was only going to stay at Trish's for a few hours, but Tara and Mary wanted me to stay longer. Especially Tara. I called and cancelled my evening clients and stayed for 3 more hours. We wound up having fun, catching frogs and tadpoles with the 7 little kids that were there.
Filthy, I finally had to leave to go to Sarah's. I said good-bye to Tara's family and Tara walked me to her car. I really feel like Tara's more of a sister now. In fact, even though she's older, most definitely a little sister. It's kinda hard for me to think of her in a romantic capacity anymore.
I do love her very much and I'm glad for the type of relationship we have now. I'll always be there for her.
And I promised her Mom that if she needs anything to call me. She won't, of course, that's how she is. But I'll just put extra effort into keeping an eye on her and Tara. Those two mean a great deal to me.