I never thought the day would come, that I would be standing in a church, makeup-less, and wearing… a dress. If this were any normal day, I would be running for the hills, in desperation not to be seen by anyone looking as I was.
However, this wasn’t a normal day… it was a sad day… a devastating day. It was Sam’s… funeral. It hadn’t seemed real until I took that first step through the grand mahogany, carved doors, seeing the coffin at the far end in front of the pews, also mahogany.
‘Christ, I didn’t know it would be an open casket funeral!’ I thought to myself, my heart beating a thousand times faster than it should do. Mum was close by my side, squeezing my hand. Again, if this was a normal day I would have died of embarrassment at the prospect of my mother holding my hand. But, like I said, this wasn’t a normal day.
Although I’d tried to convince her not to come, I was actually glad she was. If mum hadn’t been there with me right now, I think I might have fainted or burst into fits of tears. But I had to be strong… Sam wouldn’t have wanted me to be upset. Besides, all my tears had been drained from my system from the continuous episodes of blubbering over the last week and a half.
“Hello, Nicola.” I heard behind me. I turned to face the familiar female voice and saw Michelle Beechen, Sam’s mother. I barely recognised her, yet I’d only seen her that morning Sam… died. She’d aged about ten years in the passing of her beloved son – her only son – and her weak smile was not convincing.
For the years I’d known her – as my best friend’s mother, to my boyfriend’s mother, and now to my deceased boyfriend’s mother – I’d never seen her looking so… un-kept. Her loss had taken its toll on her for the worse.
“Hello, Mrs Beechen,” I replied, returning her weak smile, but wanting to burst into tears, “how are you?” That was a stupid question.
“I’m doing fine thank you,” she replied in a whisper. Tears were brimming in her eyes, “I’m adjusting slowly. It just so… hard knowing that I’m never going to be able to see his face ever again.”
“Yes, I know how you feel.” I answered. Of course I didn’t know how she was feeling. I only lost my boyfriend, she’d lost her son. Everybody knows that a child is never to go before their parents, never. And yet, it had. Michelle had lost her son and the pain she must be feeling must have been excruciating, like losing a limb. My loss must have been like losing a football game in her eyes and that my team could always win another time… I could learn to forget about it and look forward to next time. But I didn’t want anybody else. All I wanted was Sam; my one true love…
“Would you like to sit up at the front with the family, Nicola?” Michelle asked, taking a tissue out of her sleek, black Gucci copy bag, “I know he would have wanted you to. He thought the world of you. He loved you very much; I could see it in his eyes.”
I didn’t know what to say in response, Michelle and I had never particularly seen eye-to-eye and had never really had much to do with each other, but I felt it my duty to honour her son’s life, my Sam’s life, and be brave enough to watch go to the front of the church, in front of all of the people congregated within its walls, and represent Sam’s nearest and dearest. His loved ones. The love of his short, short life. I nodded hastily and glanced quickly at mum. She gave my hand one last squeeze before I followed Michelle to the front pew where her husband, Henry – Sam’s father – and her two daughters, Meghan and Amelia, sat in silence, staring up at the coffin in front of them.
The girls, both twins of eight-years-of-age, sat either side of their father, holding both of his hands, with a tissue in their hand, were red-eyed with runny noses. Henry had a brave face on, his lips clapped together and his posture broad and straight. Even in his situation, he wouldn’t let his guard down and cry at his own son’s funeral. He and Sam had been close, but not close enough for him to make a mockery of himself at the foot of his coffin, blubbering and mourning and cursing God for taking his son so early. From what I’d heard, there’d been plenty of that in their home, away from the public eye.
“Would you like to view the deceased, my dear?” the Priest asked, pacing over to us at the front. I looked up at him in shock and dismay. Did I want to see the corpse of my boyfriend? Or would I rather miss this opportunity to ever gaze at his handsome face for the rest of eternity? I gulped hard and follow the Priest to the coffin. Like the interior of the Church, it was made from fine mahogany and smooth as silk. It was gold rimmed and spotless, no mucky fingerprints in sight.
As I approached the head of the casket, pale skin could be seen beneath a mass of honey blonde waves of hair. His mother had detested the length of her son’s hair, but I liked it. It wasn’t long, but it wasn’t short. It was just right. I gazed down at Sam, tears welling in my eyes, blurring my vision. I wiped them away with the back of my hand and gazed on. His eyes were shut and his lips were slightly apart and tinted pale blue.
Oh how I so longed to kiss him goodbye, but resisted. Yes, he was my boyfriend, but I didn’t fancy kissing something… someone… that was dead. Instead, I reached behind my neck and took hold of the clasp on the locket around my neck. Carefully, I unlocked it and held the silver pendant in the palm of my hand. Sam had given it to me for Christmas. I fumbled with the locket until it opened. Inside was a tiny picture of me and one of him. We were both pulling faces, but I loved them both so much.
I laid the locket around his neck, not daring to reach in and clasp it shut, and placed the heart shaped, open lock on his chest next to his heart. My heart belonged to him now and would forever belong to him until the end of time.
“Miss?” the Priest mentioned, advising me to take my seat. I could take a hint and took one last look at my darling Sam. I let a tear roll down my cheek and whispered his last words to me:
“I love you…”