When It Finally Feels Real

A friend of ours who Ralph used to live with while he worked in Chicago many years back passed away a week ago. This came as somewhat unexpected news because while Marianne had several things going wrong with her, she always rallied. Always. Kinda of like a cat with 9 lives, plus a few extra. She’d gone in for surgery last November or December, ended up on a ventilator—shades of what happened to author Dorien Grey—and had a number of ups and downs while in the hospital and rehab ever since.

Then Ralph and I got the text last weekend. Marianne had passed.

Ralph managed to get out and see Marianne several times while she was in the hospital and in rehab. I didn’t. But I did do something instead; I sent cards. One or two a week. And I always included a nice note in it to make her laugh. She told me over the phone a couple weeks back I was crazy to spend so much money on cards to send her. I told her “Honey, these are from the dollar store. When you get home, that’s when you’ll start getting Hallmark cards.”

Her sister and nieces told me Marianne looked forward to mail delivery in the hospital and rehab. And the days she received a card, she’d have one of them read it out loud to her and they’d laugh together. She smiled. That’s a gift. Not the cards. The smile. That someone can do something so simple for another and receive a smile in return? That’s special.

Marianne’s sister told me the cards would be placed in the casket with her. There was still one card I hadn’t sent her yet, so I filled it out last Sunday after receiving the news, and placed it in the casket with her on Tuesday. One for the road. Symmetry.

Her passing didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real for her family or Ralph when he joined them at the hospital after her passing and remained in the room with her body for several hours. Ralph told me the way the rays of the setting sun fell on her, her skin glowed and she honestly looked like she’d open her eyes.

We felt the same way seeing her at the front of the room at the funeral home. She looked like she’d just open her eyes, realize she’d taken a short nap, and things would continue on just as they always had. She looked that natural. Just a whole lot quieter, which would have been a feat, let me tell you. We looked at the pictures placed around the room—especially the ones of her in her nursing outfit, and ones of her dogs—and talked to her relatives, who were beyond gracious in including us as much as they did.

Marianne’s sister gave a heartfelt eulogy with no dry eyes to be found, I told some stories about Marianne that had people laughing, then her niece ended things with another heartfelt eulogy. And still this didn’t feel final.

Things weren’t helped when a Catholic priest suggested to the room that if he had any sway over when he passed away, he’d do it close to Easter too because of Jesus’s resurrection. This prompted me to whisper “If I go up there, she rises, and I have a heart attack, it’s HIS fault.”

Ralph and I returned the next morning, sat for a short prayer, and were then ushered to the front to see Marianne’s body. THIS felt final. We were caught off guard. I walked up next to my husband, looked at her in the casket one last time, saw my cards there and the one I’d put in the previous day, said “goodbye Mar,” and walked out into the hall.

We stood there waiting for everyone else to exit. Eight of us had been asked to be pallbearers. Ralph and I waited in silence, and a clock on the wall next to us started chiming. 11:40a.m. Ralph looked at me and asked “Is that clock chiming?” It was. “Why? It’s not 11:30 or 11:45.” I thought about it for a second. “It’s Marianne saying goodbye.”

This would normally freak the heck out of him. Not this time. I think we both took some comfort because…well, what if it was? I think it was her. And that’s what matters. She said goodbye. She liked what we all shared. She wanted us to know she’s okay.

I can live with this. If I have to live with anything about her passing, then I can live with this.

And it finally starts to feel real.

Kristoffer, Marianne, Ralph, Jackie, & Dr. Tate.

Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake (also to be re-published under his real name), and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

14 Responses to “When It Finally Feels Real”

  1. Katherine Trick says:

    You gave her the best gifts anyone could ask for—–Smiles. That’s something special. I’m sure she loved you for it. Those smiles were medecine for her soul. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristoffer says:

      I will always be glad for them, and for her. And thank you for reading this. =) I lost 99% of my audience last year when I took 6 months off (and even more from blogging). I appreciate you still being here.

  2. Martha Swartz says:

    You & Ralph are so Amazing.
    I truly am honored to know you.
    Kris, life is short. So as you know me I’m pretty straight forward and will say right here & now. I Love You

    • Kristoffer says:

      Luv ya too, Martha. Was just loading some of my recovered blog posts from the 800 I lost and found an old one where I interviewed James. It’s back up again under the People of Interest category.

  3. May her memory always make you smile.

  4. Nikole Zeiger says:

    I’m sure you have heard this before but…You have a way with words! I loved reading the cards to her! I think I looked forward to it just as much as she did. And one of the few times she smiled during the last few mobths was when I would read what you wrote. She was truly blessed to have such great friends in you and Raph! Thank you for being such good friends to my Aunt.

    • Kristoffer says:

      Eh. Most of the time, Ralph just tells me to be quiet. lol That works about as often as it did for your aunt. I think Marianne and I just had a similar sense of humor. If it was inappropriate, we laughed. And I loved the sound of her laughter. =)

  5. Susie Happ says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. This was a wonderful tribute to her. You were such good friends to her and I know she loved you and appreciated you both. Making some one laugh and smile is a gift. Treasure it

  6. Sharon Griffin says:

    Thanks Kris for this. It means as much to me as your eulogy did. It still doesn’t feel real. I was at work yesterday and I was like “oh, I have to call Mar and reached for the phone when I realized I had no number to call. So i said a little prayer instead.

    • Kristoffer says:

      I was cleaning the living room this past weekend and came across my handwritten notes of addresses of where she’d been the past two places. I didn’t have the heart to throw them out. Not yet. One day maybe.

  7. Darlene Pientka- Bugajski says:

    It’s been at least 40 years since I saw Marianne. We grew up on the same street as kids. Although my memory of her and her family has faded, I will adopt my * new memory of her that you have created with your heart felt words and and tongue in cheek friendship you shared over the years…

    Thank you for sharing and keep writing those stories…we could all use some new memories

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