Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Our family huddled in the pew to brace ourselves against the cold slaps the January breeze delivered each time the entry door opened behind us. From my seat on the end, I looked down the aisle and scanned the room.
The chapel overflowed with strangers, dressed in dark suits and black dresses with overcoats tucked between them or stashed under seats, everyone bound together in silent sorrow.
The ushers escorted every family, couple, and person to any available seat until all were taken. A soft knock echoed from my left. I looked over to see the light wood wall move and reveal extra viewing space. After a few minutes of swift and expert chair placement, every seat was filled. Standing Room Only remained.
With so many present you would think the place would have been warm on the strength of body heat alone but it wasn’t. It never was.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
I glanced at the two large monitors set in Austin stone walls on either side of a darker oak platform and dais comprising the non-denominational altar area.
In constant loop on the screens, brief chapters of a man’s life rotated for us. Pictures of smiles and laughs, private moments with family and friends spanning decades faded in and out while the soundtrack of his days played.
Marking the stride of years, the tastefully appointed chapel became a familiar but unwanted place I visited annually, and on occasion, more frequently. While intended to convey peace and comfort, it held none for me nor for countless others I’d guess.
My last visit supported a friend whose husband shot himself in front of her as his final parting words of a heated argument, ending his struggle with depression and substance abuse but heaping heavy loads of pain, a weight no one is made to bear, to hers.
I was thankful for the distraction of the video diary to reground me in the present and banish memories of her shaking and gut-wrenching sobs, her grip tight around my neck as I embraced her torrent of grief.
After a few minutes, I looked down at the program I grabbed as we were hurrying inside the sanctuary. Mark smiled back at me.
That’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow’s another light. From one sojourner to another, all the best.