Strangling, Suffocating, Stifling.
We filed into the pews, hands clasped and hearts pounding. We were all standing there waiting for the ceremony to begin. I kept my head down and my emotions constricted. I was choking on everything that was trying to get out. My scarf was wrapped around my neck, making me unable to breathe. I was anticipating the tears slowly streaming down my face. We all sat down. I prepared by digging my pointer fingernail into the palm of my right hand. For some reason this was comforting to me. Puncturing my palm seemed less painful than what I was soon about to feel. Her husband approached the altar to speak.
I looked up at him. The first thing I noticed was his tie. Not the look on his face or the tears streaming from his light brown eyes, but his tie. It was dark blue, perfectly straight, pulled tightly, just like I’m sure he had practiced and perfected for decades. He thought he’d be using those finely mastered skills for good—for proms, and parties, and weddings. He’d never imagine he would wake up one morning alone, put on his nicest suit, stand in front of a mirror, and wrap a tie around his neck. He’d done a lot of things for her, but he never thought she’d ask him to do this.
His tie was wrapped around his throat, keeping in everything he was feeling. Tight and tense he was almost done. He was about to do it. He would remain composed. He wore this tie proudly, in front of a few dozen weeping family members and friends. Choking on their tears, their bodies undulated up and down. He eloquently spoke the last words of his eulogy. He stepped off the podium, slowly and discretely loosening his tie, just as I loosened my scarf. We both released everything that was being restrained. He subtly pulled out a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped the streaming tears that he had held in. It was over. He no longer had to have a strong exterior. No longer had to be put together or composed. Behind the hard shell of smiles and laughter he created, deep down, he felt the exact opposite--loss.