I felt uncomfortable in my uppity-ness and offensive in my judgment.
I sat there, in the second pew of the far right aisle of the cathedral, behind a man who went by the name of "Buzz".
The name probably had less to do with a sporty haircut in a varsity clad youth, than a state of being through a lifetime of being 'on the road'. He wore a black t-shirt and a huge turquoise medallion that must have had more to do with sentimental feelings than fashion as I knew it. His whole being was inappropriate in the world I usually live, where funeral garb is somber and tasteful and, save for pearls, unaccessorized.
Throughout the mass, his wife would clasp his hand or rub his back, and stare at him with sympathy and pity and sorrow and love and longing and shared pain. The flow of her face would draw my gaze from the rose in her hair, from the garish red tank top under the sheer black blouse she wore, from the cheap haircut and worn out shoes.
God help me; there was a fifty one year old man, a three day old corpse about 25 feet away from me, and all I could see were badly clad mourners in small town couture.
I couldn't make out the eulogy, so I made up a story about the mourners in front of me instead. I imagined that she was a backup singer that his band picked up in one place or another, and one night, in a beery haze, they fell into bed and then fell in love. Eventually, he made an honest woman out of her, and together, they made a quiet living in the music business. Maybe he was a studio guy for a semi-famous musician; maybe she taught guitar to the neighborhood kids. Maybe they both went clean about 10 years ago - early enough to salvage their lives, late enough to let it show on their faces.
And then he started to sing. And she started to clap. And he was so sad. So very, very sad. There was such sorrow, such deep and primal sorrow in his voice as he wailed out Lean on Me on the powder blue electric guitar in front of the giant fresco of St. Peter-in-Chains.
His friend, his buddy, was in a box, and his guitar gently wept, and I stole a look around a packed cathedral, full of guys who'd spent their lives on the road, traveling from bar to bar, from smoky club to smoky club.
I'd met John a handful of times, and it had been at least a decade since I'd seen him last, before that final time a few months before his death. A brother of my aunt, an aunt who'd married in, no blood-relation of mine, no real loss, no knowledge of or concern for the life he'd led an hour and a half out of Toronto.
Rumours spread in his last few months; we had the gall to drag out his demons and delve into his faults like gossip was sustenance and we hadn't had a feeding in a while.
We imagined a lonely, dissolute life, ending in illness brought on himself. We headed to that funeral, immaculately dressed in well-matched separates, in self-righteous glory, with a giant cloud of "I told you so" over our heads.
We had no idea that hundreds of people would file by and say, "He gave me my first start in music." We had no idea that the grizzly old guys who kept lumbering in were men of respect in the business, and that they had had a lot of respect for John. We had no conception of the fact that his name graced the stationary of boards and committees and groups committed to change and artistic awareness in that little town. We had no knowledge that his was a heart of golden generosity, and his death would be mourned by more than just his distanced family, by more than a handful.
I had no idea until after I saw his closed casket that this is a man with whom I could have shared a merry conversation or two.
His passing brought tears to the eyes of hundreds; shell-shocked friends with a lot of history, who wore suits with Motley Cruet t-shirts and inappropriate roses in their hair, felt a common pain that awed me.
Itís amazing what I donít know, sometimes. Amazing, and pitiful.
0 comments so far