I flatter myself to think some of you wondered where I disappeared to after announcing my return from New York. I planned to spread my usual nonsense on Facebook and Twitter after I finished my docent shift at Alexandria’s Carlyle House yesterday. Instead, Greg and I attended the after hours viewing of a friend who shouldn’t have died.
We say that a lot when someone dies, especially if we don’t want them to leave us behind. In this case it was the bald truth. Brian was healthy and happy, a top stagehand with a wife who loved him and a teenaged daughter who, by her own description, didn’t know the sun didn’t rise and set on him until she was somewhere around thirteen. But last Thursday, when he was heading home on his motorcycle after an evening show, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.
His family, his wife’s family, the extended family of his union local and all the people like Greg who’d been his friends from college made the viewing a crowded, loving affair. It would’ve been even livelier if we could’ve lifted our glasses as befitted his Irish heritage. Unfortunately, U.S. funeral homes don’t have liquor licenses–a terrible, terrible oversight on their part.
As a stagehand, Brian wore black nearly every day of his life, and he hated it. So black was banned from the proceedings. His daughter and I wore pink. Greg donned peacock blue. The dress code for the packed funeral mass was Hawaiian shirts. I never thought I’d wear a Hawaiian shirt to a funeral. Yet it fit on so many levels. There was a great band–playing liturgical music, but you can’t have everything. Even better, the soloist “didn’t step on the cat” during “Ave Maria”. The priest and the folks delivering the eulogies made us laugh and cry in equal measure. The priest, in particular, seemed determined to talk about “the life of Brian”. He must’ve been a Monty Python fan, too.
After it was over, Brian’s daughter gathered friends and family to sing “Piano Man”, because he’d turned her on to Billy Joel when she was seven. His college buds lined up beside the hearse to give him a Benny Hill salute and vowed, whichever one of them was next, to make sure “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” was played at the ceremony.
It was as good a send-off as it gets. But that doesn’t change the fact that he shouldn’t have been in that box. It doesn’t change the fact that his wife has lost her best friend, or that his daughter will never have him applauding at her high school graduation, moaning about college costs or giving her away at her wedding. They were robbed of his presence and his love for no reason at all.
I try not to inject too much of the personal into my posts. I keep politics off my Fan page and the inevitable writer whining to a minimum. But this needs to be said, and I don’t think anybody will disagree when I say it. When you’re driving in your car, your truck or whatever kind of wheeled carton you take on the highway, look out for motorcyclists and bicyclists and pedestrians. There’s nothing between them and the pavement except you.
And for the sake of Whomever or Whatever you consider holy in DON’T. DRIVE. DRUNK.