Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Losing Jason: Part V

On October 31st, 2010, my best friend Jason Ryan Schippers a.k.a. Fish passed away due to surgery complications. It’s been difficult to come to terms with this, but on the 2nd anniversary of the events, I wanted to let my thoughts and emotions out via this blog. Each posting will coincide with an occurrence from that date two years ago. This is not going to be easy to write, post or read. This is my view and emotions from this. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but telling this story is something I feel compelled to do.

Part V: The Funeral

I didn’t sleep well the night before the funeral. I just couldn’t stop my mind from racing. In the years before Rachel and Marshall, the easiest thing I could think of to stop my racing mind was to drink in excess. It was never something I considered a problem, but knew that self-medicating with alcohol was not a good decision for me, especially now. I was very focused on being a good husband and father, while also trying to become a better overall person. Alcohol induced sleep is the last thing that I needed to do so I just laid there. I kept playing our rift in my mind, never really understanding my actions. In addition to that I kept thinking about the most trivial of things, like what I should wear to the funeral. That’s not a joke. I was desperately trying to think of something to wear that was respectful but could also pay homage to Jason. I decided on my Superman cuff-links and tie featuring The Rock. It was corny, but fitting for us.

There was also a song that kept repeating my head, Hurt by Johnny Cash. There were a few lines that just kept going over and over in my mind;

What have I become,
My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know,
Goes away in the end,

And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,

Heather and Bobbi, good friends from work, came over to babysit Marshall while Rachel and I went. As soon as they arrived, we jumped in the car to head over. I was worried driving over that we wouldn’t get a seat as the number of people that attended the visitation was overwhelming. When we arrived, the place was packed. We were able to get two seats together in the next to last row. My good friend Marc was already there, the next aisle over. We exchanged a look and a nod but nothing more. I think a lot of people weren’t sure what to say to me during this. They knew how close Jason and I had been, but they also knew we hadn’t been talking at all. It was just strange all around.

I don’t remember much about the ceremony itself. I had tears streaming down my face, my head in my hands and just a complete feeling of loss. When the ceremony completed, everyone got up to walk past the casket to see Jason for the final time. His family was in a separate room right off the front for privacy, but I could slightly see them back there from my spot in line. As I made my way towards Jason, I was washed over with the pain I experienced seeing him the night before. I didn’t collapse, but felt completely weak in the knees and wanted to fall. Without thinking, I unhooked one of my Superman cufflinks and held it tightly in my hand. As I got up next to him, I quickly placed it in the casket with him. I truly felt that part of me was lost that day and this symbolized it. I wanted to make sure I was with him so he wasn’t moving on alone. It doesn’t make any sense at all, but I just needed that part of me with him. I immediately ran over to the private room and hugged Angie. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be in there, but I just wanted to show my love to them.

We walked out into the lobby and stood, hugging and trying to make sense of the unexplainable. After a few minutes the area had cleared out to leave the family alone with Jason while they closed the casket. We went out to our car and waited to follow them to the cemetery. It all seemed so surreal. This guy, so full of life and love, was no longer with us. How can this be? I just kept wondering that. It didn’t make any sense, and still doesn’t to this day. Sometimes in life things aren’t meant to be understood, I guess.

I watched Jason’s family get into the limousine that carried them to the cemetery and prepared to follow. We followed and parked, exiting the car to meet friends and head to Jason’s final resting place. Rachel and I stood a few feet from his family under the tent on this cold day. Standing next to me was Jason’s “son” from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. He was the grandson of the man who presided over the funeral, but looked lost amongst it all. I stood next to him and just put a hand on his shoulder for a second to let him know it was okay to feel whatever he was feeling. He looked sad and confused but glanced up at me with a small smile. I think he was just giving me a nod of appreciation for a gesture so small, but may have meant something to him. He left once the proceedings have completed.

Before leaving people made their way to Jason’s family, who were seated right in front of the casket, to give their condolences one more time. We slowly worked our way over and prepared to, well I didn’t know what. Regardless of what I said, it wasn’t going to help. My hug wasn’t going to help. There’s not enough strength in the world to be given to a family who lost an angel way too soon. The strangest and most powerful thing happened to me, though, when I got up to Marla. I walked up to his Mom, gave her a hug and she immediately said to me, “Jason loved you.” It was such a simple statement, but such a huge moment. Here we are, standing in front of her son who passed away, and she was comforting me! I should be comforting her, but she wanted me to know that he loved me. Despite everything that happened and was said, he never stopped caring just like I didn’t. It’s a moment I treasure so dearly and hold very close to my heart.

We went downtown after the funeral to hang out briefly at a reception. I was able to talk to Angie a little bit and get things heading in the right direction with me and his family. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose touch. So many times in situation like this, the family gets lost by the friends of the person who passed. I didn’t want to be a side note, a brief cameo in their lives. I had lost him but wanted to make sure I was still welcomed in their lives. So often when someone passes on, their family is consoled my friends but then people disappear. I didn’t want to be that guy. They mean well and do care, but I wanted them to know I cared about them too. They were going to have some tough times ahead and I wanted them to know they could reach out to me, like Jason used to. We said goodbye and went to Tasty Tacos for lunch with Carl and Jamel.

Once Rachel and Marshall went to bed that night, I just sat on the floor looking at old pictures of Jason and I. We had so many. He was a huge part of my life. I watched my wedding video because it was the only thing I had with him in it. I relived memories in my mind and wondered how could I let that all go astray. As you’ll learn, though, I did a lot of “What Ifs” over the next few months.

Nothing seemed right about that day, that week. Jason had left us and now we have to move on without him? It just didn’t seem real. So many of us had fallen and it just seemed so tough to rise.

Previous Entries: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V / Part VI / Part VII

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