My co-worker Bryant passed away.
He was young, had just left our workplace for a new career and just fell over 3 days into the new job. They didn't know what happened, so his mother asked for an autopsy. I still don't know what happened to him,
This is not the first time someone I know has passed away. I have lost people in the past. But this was an open casket viewing, and my less than mature mind was not prepared for it at all.
My co-workers and I all decided to drive down together. We left work early so we could clean up and were supposed to meet back at the club at 5:30 for a 6pm viewing. My boss showed up and announced that we were all going to have a drink before leaving. The head golf pro (Tim), the membership director (Audry), and the head waiter (Debbie) went upstairs and made drinks. We got to the funeral home at about 6:30. We walked in and there was a large crochet blanket hanging in the lobby, with a photo of Bryant, with a rainbow and some doves along with his birthdate and the date of death in the bottom corner.
Water started leaking out of my eyes.
The door to the viewing room was open. The casket was in the front of the room, and I froze. I looked over at my boss, who mouthed, "It's ok." and gestured me to follow him into the room.
Bryant's mom and dad were to the left of the casket. I looked down at my friend and I lost it. They had dressed him in a chef's coat and hat, the very coat and hat that he had worn when he graduated from culinary school. We shook hands with his parents, letting him know how much he was loved at work. His mom kept repeating, "At least he died doing what he loved."
One of Bryant's aunts asked us to take a seat. We did. BM turned and asked us if anyone wanted to say a few words. None of us did. We left.
Back at the clubhouse, BM took us all back upstairs and poured more drinks. We reminisced about our friend. We shot the shit. We smoked cigars on the back patio. We bonded, then all went home.
The next day, I had ordered a ton of food from McCrays BBQ in West Palm Beach for the repast after the funeral. BM, Tim and I drove two cars down, as we were providing all the beverages as well and BM's truck was filled with coolers. McCrays is a food truck. Bryant always wanted to have his own truck, doing modern spins on soul food. So...that's what we got for him. I loaded all of the food into my mom's Jeep. Then we drove South, to the mission where the repast was being held. We completely missed the funeral, but we provided his family with enough food to last this whole week.
I'm lucky that I have made it to the age of 35 without much loss. I did sit down this week with my parents to let them know that under no circumstances would I ever want an open casket at my funeral. Dad was his logical self and said that they wouldn't have to deal with that as they'd be going first. I told him that nothing is guaranteed.
It's not. One thing that came out of the loss of my friend is the fact that I need to do better with this life I have. I can't nap it all away. There needs to be change. I'm looking for that change. Who knows what that change will be? Not me. Not now. But it's coming soon.