The funeral took place on March 17, 2011: St. Patrick’s Day. Emmett loved that holiday. His ancestors were from Ireland, and he was named after one of them. So it didn’t surprise me that it was the day on which we celebrated Emmett’s life.
I woke up that morning in hopes that the night before had all been a bad dream. It hadn’t. The limo driver from the funeral home came to pick us up. All the kids piled in, excited to ride in a limo for the first time. My mother rode with us.
The limo driver started to drive towards the church where the funeral was to take place. My heart started to pound. He was taking the route that would pass by Walgreens. I hadn’t yet been able to drive by, and I wasn’t about to have the trip to the funeral be the first time. I started having a panic attack, and I just stared at my mom. She could tell exactly what I was thinking. She gestured up to the driver and asked him if he could turn around and go the long way to the church. He very patiently apologized, turned around, and took us to the church the long way. The church was busting at the seams. Emmett’s popularity and ability to make friends was certainly apparent everywhere I looked. The halls were lined with people.
Family had gathered in the viewing room with the casket. I think shock had given me an adrenaline boost, because today I felt stronger than I anticipated. I had my babies by my side. We walked in and took our place on the front row. Someone came and got Kaleeya to take her to the nursery. I hated to see her go, but I also knew that she would be very distracting and restless. My good friend Brittany had been asked to take Tytus. I wanted them to be in the building, but I didn’t want to worry about them during the service. My stepfather said the family prayer in the viewing room before the family members joined the rest of the congregation in the chapel. He was so eloquent with each sentence he spoke. The spirit filled the room, and I had chills all over my body.
They asked us to begin the line to follow the casket into the chapel. It was still bustling with people, and was filled clear to the back. People were even standing in corners because every seat had been taken. I scanned the room to make sure Kandi wasn’t anywhere to be seen . . . a talent I have become skilled at as the years have rolled by. We turned to go down the aisle to our seats when Teage pulled on my hand and said, “I can’t do this Mom . . . I need to leave.” I leaned down and gave him a kiss. “I understand buddy. I don’t want to do this either.” “Mom . . . I have to go find Kaleeya.” So my little boy went to the nursery to join his sister. Later, my friend Emily—who was there with the children—told me that when he was asked if was okay, he said only these few words: “My Daddy is in a box.”
Now it was just me and the twins. It felt weird not to be surrounded by all five of my children. I took my seat, with one of my girls on each side of me. I was still feeling pretty strong. I could do this. It was going to be a beautiful service. Emmett’s cousins were going to do the life sketch. Our good friend Frank was going to share some memories. Emmett’s best friend from high school, Jason, would say the closing prayer. I had two of my babies holding my hands. I could be strong.
The music began . . . and so did my tears. I was shaking like a dog who just got its first bath. The whole bench felt like an earthquake had just hit. HOW WAS THIS REAL? All the strength that had allowed me to walk into this crowded room of people quickly washed out of me with every tear. My twins glanced at me every few minutes and then looked back down at their laps and silently wept, gripping my hands a little tighter with every glance. By the time the first speaker began, I felt so light-headed that I could hardly breathe. My chest felt heavy, like it did on the night I first heard the news of Emmett’s death.
I finally got my body to relax, and I tried to listen to the messages being taught. I prayed for peace so that I would be able to listen and think and remember. The stories told were beautiful. The memories priceless. The love these people had for Emmett illuminated every word said. It was a perfect service, just the way it was supposed to be. At one point, I could hear my baby cry in the back. I knew it was him, and I wanted to just get up and go get him. Later, Brittany told me about her experience with him in the hall. She said she couldn’t get him to calm down, and all of the sudden, he stopped crying. He was looking up and smiling like someone was making faces at him. Who knows what Angel was there helping my baby boy be calmed?
The closing song was God Be With You Till We Meet Again. My soul ached. The music rocked me, and the message brought hope. That song—which I had heard so many times before—now had so much more meaning to its sweet words.
I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to just sit there forever, listening to the words and music of faith. The minute I stood up . . . I knew that peace would not come so easily. I knew that this moment of calm wouldn’t last forever, but it felt safe. Getting up out of my seat would mean that I was ready to put my husband’s body into the ground. And I wasn’t. Eventually, my aching spirit lost, and I stood up to walk out to greet everyone.
I saw faces I hadn’t seen in years. They were beautiful reminders of my past. People from my childhood coming to show support. Friends from all walks of life. Friends of Emmett’s whom I had never met before. Love pouring out on us from all over the place.
The luncheon following the funeral was beautiful. Photos were displayed everywhere. My little ones had a chance to prance around the room giving loves. Teage was attached at the hip to my sister’s boyfriend, Will. It made me happy to see Teage connect with someone. He was the one I was worried about the most. He had taken this harder than anyone. He had no life in him at all. He just kind of clung to people and wouldn’t let anyone go. He was even more of a zombie than I was. His little mind seemed to be constantly racing from scenarios of fear. It wasn’t until later that night that I would find out exactly what was going on inside his head.
Let me go back a bit to explain this. One October morning, five months before Emmett’s death, the twins were at school, Kaleeya was asleep, and Teage came into my room while I was applying my make-up. “Mom,” he said, “remember when I went to the movie Megamind? . . . Dad’s friend, Kandi, from his office . . . she was there.”
Pit in stomach . . . “Oh yeah buddy, that is crazy. Did you guys run into her?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but she was there.”
I picked up the phone and called Emmett at work, and after a few minutes I said, “Hey…Teage is talking about Kandi being at the movie with you guys. Did you run into her?” “No…” he answered, “He sat by a lady who kept giving him candy . . . Let me talk to him.”
Teage had his ear to the phone. “Oh . . . okay,” he said, “yeah, yeah, uh huh….”
He hung up the phone. “Mommy, I lied. Kandi was not there, it was just a lady with candy.”
After that phone conversation, I thought about that day . . . Emmett had acted strange. He said he wanted some alone time with Teage and they were going to go to a movie. I had suggested that Kaleeya and I go with them as well, since the twins would be at a friend’s birthday party. His reply was an awkward and unexplained, “Hell no!” that left me with an uneasy feeling inside of me.
The night of the funeral, my brother Josh brought over Megamind for the kids to watch. I was in packing for our trip the next day to the cemetery, which was out-of-state. Teage came walking into my room . . . and almost word for word, said, “Hey Mom . . . remember when I went to Megamind? She really was there, Mom . . . I LIED to you. WHY did I have to lie? . . . WHY was she there? Why did I have to lie to you?” I dropped my bag and scooped him up. I said, “I know Teage. She was there, but it is not your fault. You didn’t lie to me. There is nothing you did that could make me stop loving you. Everything is going to be okay.” He cried and cried. He felt guilty. He felt betrayed. He didn’t talk much, just cried in my arms. It was like my arms were excited to hold him and welcome him to race. The race to figure out where to begin to grieve. I knew I wasn’t alone. Teage’s little mind and heart were in a battle just like mine were: a battle that would take years to overcome. His confession that day was just the beginning of deep-rooted fears and secrets that would prevent him from being a little care-free kid.
The decisions we make don’t just affect us. In the moment, something might seem innocent and fun. We only care about ourselves. For some, these times come many times a day. It is easy to think that we are the exception . . . that what we do is okay. I don’t think Emmett had any clue of the impact that decision to take Teage to the movies that day would have on his son months later. And I know Emmett didn’t think that his chance to right that wrong, which he had left for tomorrow to fix, would be taken away with two shots of a gun.
Teage had been holding in a lie, and now it was time to let it go. Time to set it free. I was so proud of him. He was honest with me. He was honest with himself. He was a great example to me that night. At four years old, my boy stood a little taller that day. The truth can set you free. Every time the truth is obscured in darkness . . . we are letting Satan have the power. Secrets and deception will never win . . . though it might seem easy in a moment of shame . . . truth will find you. Light will win. In those moments, it is our chance to make sure we are on the team that will always prevail.
If there is a silent secret inside of you . . . now is the time to let it go. If you have wronged someone . . . now is your moment to set it right. All we have is now. If you think you will resolve your situation tomorrow . . . you just never know if that will be. You have been blessed with this moment NOW. Make it count.
Some of the Pall bearers