Mike and I drove up to Wisconsin today. So did Kathy, Szy, Katie, Ian, Diana, Joe, Jim, Kelly, Sam, Bequita, Chad, Mik, Adam, Kaylee, Joe, Matt, Amy, Steve, Jeanna, Jenn, Shelley, Eric, Nick, Derek, Darren, Erin, Jake and so many more people that the crowd spilled from the church out into the narthex for seating, with several more streaming in via tablets from a few states over to as far away as Hong Kong. We were all behind Adam. Literally sitting behind him, and symbolically as a tribe of his friends, there to support him and mourn the loss of Nichole at her funeral.
The word Tribe kept surrounding my thoughts today: as I listened to Adam’s breathtaking eulogy, her family, and our friends, also taking turns speaking heartfelt and hilarious memories; as I walked hand-in-hand with Mike while we followed the herse to the cemetery down the road; as we took turns tossing roses into the grave; and as we all gathered at a barn later to celebrate Nichole, at which time a rainbow formed the shape of a smile directly above us just outside of the barn. Somewhere along the way a group of students spanning almost a decade’s worth of graduating classes from the same suburban college (and a few of us non-alums who happened to make our way in via dating and marriage) took a shared love of the stage – be it on stage, back stage, or in the audience – and spun a network of deep hugs and even deeper friendships.
As the coffin was being slowly lowered into the ground, I looked around at my friends, this tribe. We all grew a little bit older today. With tears streaming down our cheeks, we watched as our own young naivety was lowered into the grave alongside Nichole. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, not at 28.
Tomorrow the sun will rise, we’ll hang up our black clothes, put tea bags over our cried-too-hard puffy eyes, and to put it as our friend Steve wrote, “we’ll honor the dead by continuing to live”.