As I entered the parlor where the wife and two sons of my husband’s cousin stood shaking hands and hugging those gathered, I smelled the thick sweet smell of gardenias. The strong rich aroma could have been a funeral home enhancement but it most likely came from the impressive display of flowers surrounding the family.
Nestled between arrangements were family photographs. One in particular caught my eye and the tears welled up before I could stop them. It was a father holding his young son in his lap as he watched the ocean from a beach chair.
Directly above was a colorful floral display from “The Beach Bunch,” lifelong friends mourning the loss of one of their fold. On the card was the simple, poignant phrase, “We love you.”
There would be no more dancing to beach music. He wouldn’t get the chance to hold his future grandchildren on the beach like he did his sons. He barely got to know his new daughter-in-law.
Bobby Gibson was only 62 and he touched so many lives before he left us. That was evident by the number of people who showed up at the receiving and the funeral to honor his life.
Dear Cancer: Stop stealing my family and friends.
We left the funeral home and stopped to eat. I ordered fried shrimp and a soda. I rarely eat fried food and I haven’t had a soda for months.
I didn’t do it for comfort. I wanted my body to feel as sick as my heart felt in that moment.
Five months from diagnosis to death. Why does cancer keep winning? It was hard not to let myself fold in like an airless accordion after two funerals in three days last week.
In faith, I believe both men are in a better place. But we are left here, unable to breathe deeply because of the pain. Our lips quiver and our eyes weep.
Yet we are called to keep moving and not give in to a bitter spirit. We must find a way to continue to love even though this is how it always ends.
We hold in our heart’s pocket a handful of memories. They may not always sustain us but like the gardenias’ sweet smell, our remembrances can remind us why it is important to love deeply while we can.