Wednesday, December 20, 2006

22. Glimpsing the Love - and Secret Compartments

Mario keeps prodding me to talk more about our respective mates and food. After all, the title of this blog is, “Table for Four, Dinner for Two.” And there are many food moments still to share. For, indeed, while eating and dining and gathering 'round a table are central to everyone’s lives, they are the heart and soul of existence for foodies like us.

I, on the other hand, am pulled toward telling you more of the back story, of who Gregory was and the twist and turns of his life and death. So the food will have to simmer for the moment on the back burner (but of course, not too long).

Let’s go back to the memorial service. Here we were in this stark, funeral-home chapel as the pews filled with Gregory’s friends and family, mine, and his business associates. It was a service that almost didn’t happen. At one point, Gregory’s cousin and his wife (who had taken over the “arrangements”), the funeral-director chick, and I had gathered around Aurora’s bed in the hospital, where she was recovering from hip surgery.

When I mentioned doing a memorial service, the cousin and his wife seemed surprised. “Who would come?” they asked. I told them a lot of his friends were asking about one. Skeptical, they allowed me to put the service together.

So there we were in the chapel. I sat between my psychic friend, who whispered to me that Gregory was there, and Gregory’s best friend, DeWayne, who had collected tributes. Aurora insisted that her priest, Father Franks, preside. DeWayne and I just wanted to make sure the tributes got read.

At length, it was my turn, and while many of the other remembrances had made me cry, I also felt shimmering inside at the outpouring of love.

I slid down the pew toward the center aisle and climbed up to the pulpit, there to see for the first time how full the chapel was, how many people were there for him and me. I took a deep breath and began: “More than anything, I am thankful that Gregory and I had five wonderful years together, years made sweet with simple pleasures – doing laundry before a morning walk, cooking together, sitting on the couch and reading the paper....” I told about our first date and Gregory wiggling his toes in the grass (at the restaurant, no less). I told about a playful incident at the drugstore scarcely a week before with Helena and a hand cart. I told how Gregory had held me the day of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, and of looking up to see tears in his eyes, too. I closed with a colleague’s line about Gregory’s purpose in my life being to make me “be a good dresser!”

I returned to my seat, and Father Franks reclaimed the pulpit, commending Gregory’s soul to God. But before the postlude could begin, a handsomely dressed, young African-American man bounded up to the pulpit and said into the microphone, “Wait. Please, wait. I wasn’t able to get my tribute to Gregory in on time, and I’d like to offer it now.”

There was a pause. I thought he was going to take a piece of paper from his breast pocket and read. Instead, a sonorous baritone rose up out of that slender body, expanding to fill the entire chapel with “Amazing Grace.”

One by one, the members of the congregation joined in, following the lead of this huge voice and heart. When he had finished, the room felt so light. We even managed to smile though our tears as the organist played a tortured postlude of “Forever Young” and “Against the Wind,” Gregory’s anthems.

The swell of emotion did not escape Gregory’s cousin and his wife, the ones who had wondered who might attend such a service. They had glimpsed a side of Gregory they’d never known, that he had never shown them.

But then, Gregory was skilled at sealing off different compartments of his life from one another. After he died, the compartments started falling open to reveal the startling contents inside.


Blogger Travel Italy said...

Buon Natale!!!

9:15 AM  

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