My flight had just landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I was hopping in a rental car to race to the hotel to change before going to the funeral home for the viewing. My insides were all twisted as I realized the finality of seeing my friend/ client/ coworker for the very last time.
I had booked my hotel room off an online site because of its proximity to Daniels Family Funeral Home where Debbie's services were being held. As I exited the interstate to head to the hotel, I drove past a sign for Daniels Family Funeral Home and saw a blue gazillion people milling about outside.
Ugggg. Was I prepared for this? I would only know a handful of people but was I ready for all the sadness and the grieving? That sure was a lot of people.
After making it to the hotel and changing clothes, I retraced my route back to the funeral home and parked the car. I then took a deep breath and made my way to the front door where a nice gentleman named Mr. Louis pointed me to the guest book. All around me were people in huddled circles quietly whispering or crying and I instantly felt a lump in my throat as I realized the reason we were all there. Young and old, I surveyed the throngs of people that had come to pay their respects as I eased my way into the parlor.
The music was playing and a slideshow was flashing above and my heart sunk as I eyed the casket for the first time. There were flowers everywhere and several people gathered around her so I slipped in a back pew and began to cry. I cried for the senselessness of it...losing someone with whom I had such close daily contact at age 48. It just didn't make sense. I occasionally glanced up at the slideshow and saw pics of her boys apparently fishing or four wheeling and it made me cry a little harder as the enormity of their loss sunk in.
Just then, it occurred to me that I had not seen a single photo of Debbie during the entire slideshow....and then the thought crossed my mind that I didn't know that Debbie actually knew so many Hispanic people.................and, just then, the crowd moved away from the casket revealing to me my greatest fear at that moment. I was plopped down on a back pew grieving for..........a 17 year old named Pedro.
I was mortified.
As the only blonde in the room, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had noticed glances cast my way since I arrived but then it sunk in. They were all wondering who I was and why Pedro's death had hit me so hard. She must have been the teacher "that cared"...I bet some of them thought. I prayed they didn't see me doing my little side step scamper as I exited the room.
Upon cross examination of Mr. Louis, I learned that Daniels Family Funeral Home has six locations in Albuquerque and that Debbie's services were being held 15 minutes away. As I got into the car, I know onlookers thought I was sobbing in heavy grief. I was actually giggling so hard I could barely breathe. Only I would make it into full-on grief mode at the funeral of someone I do not know. I mean, crashing a wedding is one thing...you get good food and maybe some dancing or a champagne toast. But crashing a funeral is a different story.
I will say that, although it was a highly embarrassing situation to be in and I am saddened at the loss of a teenager's life cut short, my mishap served as much-needed comic relief before I did have to face the real service for which I had traveled so far.
Just wish I could have heard those first folks as they were reading the guestbook.....
"Quien es Katie?"