I looked at the corn growing behind Ed’s coffin and smiled.
How perfect, I thought, for him to be here surrounded by corn. The corn he grew and harvested for most of his life. I thought of the cycles of farm life, how close they are to the earth.
Birth, death, rebirth. Year after year after year. Ed knew it well.
Carol and the rest of her family stood in a receiving line under the big tent. I sat in one of the otherwise empty chairs while Jon took pictures. When I saw a gap in the line, Carol waiting patiently for the next person to make their way to her, I cut in and gave her a hug. It was a long, hard hug, the kind of hug that takes the place of words.
Even though it was in a corn field, and Ed was wearing a camouflage t-shirt and shorts and most of the people who came were wearing jeans or shorts, flip-flops and sneakers, still there was a formality to the wake.
So Jon and I got in line. I gave hugs to grandchildren whose names I couldn’t remember but whose faces I recognized. I gave hugs to Carol and Ed’s children who I’ve come to know, a little better, over the past months.
I left before Jon did for my Bellydancing Class. It felt right to me, to be going to class after the wake. Dancing as the antidote to death.
I was surprised when my eyes started to fill with tears as I walked back to my car. And more surprised when I couldn’t stop crying on the twenty minute drive to my class.
I remember the first time I mentioned Bellydancing to Ed, he made one of those typical “guy” remarks. But then, when he watched the Sister’s of the Shawl dancing at the Open House, he told me, with wonder in his voice, that they looked like a kaleidoscope.
Ed loved to talk and was a great storyteller, so I wouldn’t have thought it when I first met him, but he was one of the few men that I’ve known in my life that actually listened to me. Our conversations were mostly about art and he was hungry to hear what I thought about his art and about art in general. He was never dismissive of my thoughts and ideas. He took me seriously.
And for guy like Ed, who has been, unquestioningly, doing things his way his whole adult life, that’s unusual.
Jon and I keep talking about how Ed’s death has hit us harder than we thought it would, in ways we wouldn’t have expected. We keep trying to understand it, to figure out just what Ed meant to us.
I’m prone to letting my feelings take over, allowing myself to feel what I feel when I feel it. Intellectualizing the death of a friend too much can be a way of avoiding emotions.
But I am curious too. With some friends it’s easy. I just know what they mean to me, the importance of them in my life is obvious.
But Ed was an unlikely friend for me to have.
I can see now that the way Ed listened to me and took me seriously was special. It made me feel good about myself, gave me a boost of confidence and allowed me to see what I had to give.
I also see that we were both able to open ourselves up to each other. To trust each other. There were many times in my life where I wouldn’t have been able to do that with someone like Ed. And I don’t know for sure, but I imagine it was probably the same for Ed.
But isn’t that just what friends do.
What a great gift, what a great loss.