The story goes that the bruja's family wanted to have a private funeral and then a friends memorial. Understandable. Similar things were done with both my grandmother and my mother. Granted, burying someone twice, even by way of metaphor, can be trying. But I think it is good to have that bit of privacy, as well as the inclusiveness.
The bruja's definition of family went beyond who she was married to or shared genetic material with. This too is understandable, if you knew her. In our circle, when we were cutting loose, rocket-fueled on either too much intoxicant or too much coffee and too little sleep, I was Dirty Uncle Bob and she was Skanky Aunt Shelly, despite the fact Michelle did not appear anywhere within the mathematics of her given name.
I was really, really, looking forward to teaching her son to address me as Dirty Uncle Bob, but so it goes...
It was two days before the funeral when the gypsy phoned and told me the colonel had invited Sabina and I to the bruja's funeral. There was a limited amount of seats, and he hoped he could accommodate these close friends and the family.
Two days was very short notice, and I told the gypsy that. Both Sabina and I had our respective obligations we were unsure if we could rearrange. My daughter, who had known the bruja since she was six, wanted to pay respects too, and it was unlikely I could have convinced my x-wife to pull our child from school to attend the funeral of one of my weirdo friends. So I declined, passing the message via the gypsy to the colonel to give our seats to one of the blood relatives, we'd go to the friend's memorial. I felt bad about that. I still do. But there was so little I could do otherwise.
It's hard to say exactly who I feel worse for in this situation. Sure, all of us friends knew and loved her, and this is crushing for us. But I think of others, like her first child, who after eighteen years and a for-the-best-adoption was finally getting to know her mother. She was going to see her half-brother be born. The bruja's mother, because common wisdom states you're not supposed to bury your own babies. Then there's the colonel, who not only got out of that accident with minor physical injuries, but is now faced with burying both his wife and unborn son.
I'll say the colonel is the one I worry the most about. By virtue of what came to pass with my mother, I've had nearly a year long ringside seat to watching someone grieve the loss of a mate. It's a heavy thing. Then, of course, the loss of the child they were going to have together. I have buried two grandmothers, a friend, and a parent, but that's something I lack the spine to contemplate.
The colonel and I do not know each other very well. We only met but a few times in the last two years. I never rightly got a chance to make an honest assessment one way or the other. Be that as it may, I know the bruja was retarded for him. She married him, after all. I am not a romantic, nor do I believe in fairy stories, but their tale came close, and might have once gotten my eyes to be a little misty, but that might've just been dust and pollen in the air.
Because of our lack of closeness, other than telling other, closer, mutual friends to watch after him, I really do not know what to say. What is their to say? In moments of crushing grief, the well intentioned I'm sorry of a stranger is so hollow. What the fuck do they know about your loss? It is something said out of awkwardness and courtesy. And it is equally awkward and hollow to acknowledge that socially expected condolence, leaving the taste of bile and cobwebs in the mouth.
Three and a half years ago, I helped my father bury his mother. On the day of her funeral is when Jibril died. Although I was not close to my father's mother, there were quite a few within the circles I traveled who wondered how I was doing. Two deaths in such proximity must be hard. The snake chases its tail and déjà vu all over again, if I haven't had a cat or two ask how I was holding up through all this by virtue of the loss of my mother.
Almost four years ago, over whiskey shots, a wise man from South Africa spoke a sage-like truth I've often repeated as an almost dysfunctional mantra; we're all messy. Indeed. We are the walking wounded. Messy. Some of us are just messier than others.
If I could, I would like to get hold of some of the bruja's ashes and scatter them in locals like the Bull's Head and the necropolis. Places we went when she came up to visit Sabina and I just before she got together with the colonel.
I do not know if she was cremated for certain. I feel it would be rude to ask the family for remains. Perhaps, since such a thing is but a symbol anyway, someday in the near future, I might strike out for those two locals, letting the mountain air and the mists of memory wash over me. Maybe that will be my memorial to my beautiful friend.
The when and if of the friends memorial is when I'll bury my friend for the second time, even if it is just in metaphor. Or I'll at least show up to grieve with others of her acquaintance. That is the social construct, after all. These sort of things are for the living, not the dead, and anyone who says differently is either daft of selling something. But, perhaps then, I'll know what to say to the colonel.