I will avoid the dramatics of saying that it was not in the forecast—I don’t recall. Perhaps it had been predicted, perhaps not. Either way, in November 2007, I was sitting in one of the many cars leaving my local church, on my way to bury my best friend’s father in the snow.
Bury him in the snow, I thought. That sounds almost playful.
Images of my friend playing with his father in the winter filled my mind—chasing each other around the front lawn during some boyhood snow day, his father pretends to trip and fall so that my friend can climb atop him, throwing white into the air, triumphant.
But these were imagined memories. They could not be my own, and so they left my mind as water through my eyes.
Don’t cry, the local mom driving the car told me when she caught sight of me in the rearview mirror. This is about celebrating life. He gave us the snow as a gift to tell us he’s all right.
Her words did little to console me. Even in my desperation for some peace, I knew that I didn’t agree with her. The weather, I felt, had very little to do with the man who had just passed, the little league baseball coach who all the kids loved, the man who gave me countless bottle caps to help build my strange collection, the man with a quiet rumble for a voice, the man who drove his son and me for a night of fun and ice cream at Holsten’s even as his cancer worsened.
I was not sure whether or not the deceased were capable of sending signals to the living that they were all right, but I felt fairly certain that this particular man would not have employed the weather as his messenger. He would have strategically placed a baseball somewhere in his house, maybe, for his son to find, or he would have spoken to his wife in a dream, quiet and kind—but he would not have sent snow.
This weather was just a coincidence, a confluence of tragic passing and beautiful white. Still, I wanted to draw meaning from it, to create a narrative for myself about what it meant to drive to a cemetery in the snow, climbing out of the car to lay a flower on a casket. But at 13, hot tears mixing with melting snow on my cheeks as I watched my friend lay his father to rest, I was paralyzed and could find no meaning.
But yesterday, I read a sentence that helped me to make some sense of what that snow should mean to me in, of all places, The Boston Globe: “Thousands of people braved snow, sleet, and driving rain Sunday morning to come to Faneuil Hall to pay their final respects to former mayor Thomas M. Menino, who died Thursday just 10 months after leaving the office he had held for an unprecedented five terms.”
Thousands, in others words, defied the weather in order to demonstrate their love for a man who had passed. They could have stayed home—there would have been countless reports of Menino’s wake, articles and photos to make one feel as if they had been there. But they went anyway, because that is what you do when someone you love has died.
Menino’s passing, of course, means far less to me than the loss of my best friend’s father, but the demonstration of public mourning that followed Menino’s death has helped me to make some sense of the day that I mourned in the snow.
I stood at the funeral of my friend’s father, cold numbing my fingers and face, because it is difficult to imagine the kind of weather that would have stopped me from being there for my friend, to bear witness to the proper burial of a great and kind man.
The snow was no message from above—it was an opportunity to demonstrate the great love that fills those resisting the cold.
Featured Image by Daniel Lee / Heights Senior Staff