Remembering Denise: A Co-Worker’s Funeral

So many thoughts come rushing in when you’re sitting at a funeral. It’s
like a whirlwind, really, looking at faces and wondering what’s going
in his or her mind or how is this person staying strong. Sometimes
you’ll catch snippets of conversation, reflections on “how great” the
deceased looks. I found myself tapping into that whirlwind to try to
suppress the sensation of self-loathing that I felt caught somewhere
between my eyes and throat.

I honestly didn’t know her all that well. She freelanced for me here
and there; really did more work for some other people around me than
for me personally. I’ve seen her in the hallways and nodded an
occasional hello and one time, when she filled in for someone else, she
sat in near proximity as a cubicle mate. I would crack some jokes that
she seemed to enjoy. I’ve even bumped into her a couple of times in
local diner, peripherally meeting her (then) fiancé.

The first year of her marriage she got cancer. She was optimistic
when she went to the doctors. She was forced to put off trying to
conceive while she and her husband focused on this problem. At one
point, the cancer appeared to go into remission. After rounds of
chemotherapy, a mastectomy and eighteen long months, Denise died.

I sat in the funeral home; five rows back, trying to shut off my
memory. I hardly knew her…but I squandered those brief moments of
contact. I remember one time, in the hallway I stopped her and asked
her “How do you feel?” and she opened up to me. Told me about the
fierce battle and the raging emotions inside of her and even of her
loss of faith.

I said something along the lines of “with God all things are
possible” but not as eloquent. She told me about consulting alternate
healing and visiting some Reiki Healer…trying everything possible to
get better. This old spiritualistic guy near by started praising her
effort in finding comfort in spirituality since “it’s all good for the
soul”. It was a moment where I could’ve spoken about Christ and the
hope in Him alone beyond this life. A moment where I could’ve tried to
bridge some hope to her present suffering and the salvation found in
Him. A moment that I said nothing, told her that I’m still praying for
her, and went back to my cubicle.

Whenever I saw her after that I didn’t ask her questions nor did I offer anything either.

Weeping all around me. People wearing shoes because “Denise thought
they were funny and she appreciates this”, a husband putting on a
strong face as his thirty-seven year old wife lies in an open casket a
mere five feet away—and me, realizing I let her and my Lord down.

A co-worker next to me told me that I shouldn’t take on any guilt. I
told her that I felt like a jerk for not speaking to Denise more but
not why I felt like a jerk. I never told her of the cross and what it
meant and although this life may end there is another life and a
redeemed life to be…that one glorious day her body will be renewed…

Never told her.

I took a funeral card and left with the gospel still stuck in my
throat. In my mind a whirlwind of theologies try to absolve my guilt
that I know my conscience never will.


MCF thinks about her. Jerry thinks about her.

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