As I think back over the past 3 months, one of the things that was the strangest for me was following the hearse to the crematorium. We stood around waiting for the hearse on the main street of Robertson, all decked out with splashes of orange. In true Matthew form, he was running late. We must have looked so strange to passers by. When the local butcher saw us all waiting by the side of the road he came out and raised his Australian Flag at half-mast; it was beautiful.
When Matthew finally arrived… (sorry; I’m trying to think of some words to best describe what I was feeling). Nope, Iv’e got nothing. I was kind of like that nauseous felling you get when you are really nervous about something. My heart beat so rapidly and my hands were shaking for the entire day.
Seeing the coffin in the car was challenging. Knowing that my husband was in there – the man I know and love – and knowing that I wouldn’t see his face again was unfathomable. The drive from there to Wollongong felt like an eternity. My brother and I drove together, right behind Matt. The whole way down I could see the coffin through the rear window and could not stop thinking ‘that’s my Matt in there’.
It is definitely time now (it’s actually way overdue!) for me to give an official shout-out to my support crew, or ‘My People’ as they are now formally known. These four people (JB, EB, HS, & JM) have walked beside me and propped me up since the day Matt died. They’ve made me smile and made me cry. One of the biggest blessings of having these guys around was that they practically made the funeral happen – I simply told them what I wanted and they made all the calls and organised everything. They have been an absolute blessing to me.
There are two memories of the days following Matt’s accident that stand out to me the most. Firstly, the day we met ‘K’ the funeral director. She came out to our house to talk through the logistics of the funeral and the days leading up to it. Now, I don’t live in the biggest of houses, so when she arrived we were all squished into the little sunroom; me, my parents, Matt’s parents, My People, and Squid (who managed to somehow find himself sitting on K’s shoulder with his bum in her face – no shame!).
One of the most frustrating things about that morning was I think that K assumed that I knew what happened at a funeral – but I had no idea, as I had never actually been to one. After a good chunk of time discussing flowers, times, the crematorium, blah blah blah, My People and I were able to run away to my room to choose some clothes for Matthew to wear.
This in itself was strange…I wanted him to be wearing something nice (as I knew his family would be having a ‘viewing’ of him before the funeral), but I also didn’t really want to say goodbye to any of his clothes either. We joked and laughed about putting him in his Halo costume which I had just bought him…but went with some jeans and a nice shirt instead. Oh and orange undies of course!
The other day which stands out vividly in my memory was the day I went with My People to see Matt at the funeral home. This was my chance to see him and say goodbye to his ‘earth suit.’ My People picked my up in the ‘V Mobile’ and we drove together, just the 5 of us, into town. I don’t really remember but I think we mostly drove in silence listening to music, all wondering what was about to happen. None of us had seen a body before; especially not someone we loved so strongly.
When we arrive in the TINY car park (I think it took EB an 18 point turn to squeeze into the spot), K greeted us at the side door. Then it all happened so fast. We were still making our way over to her and laughing about EB’s poor parking, and the next minute we were being ushered inside and the open coffin was right there. Like right there. Like if you were walking down the footpath you may have seen him. It was so strange.
There were rows of seats facing the coffin with a strategically placed box of tissues.
“Take as long as you need,” K said, “I’ll just be on the other side of this curtain”. And she left.
We all kind of stood there in shock. There was my husband – our best mate – lying in that box. Except it didn’t look like him at all. This is really hard to explain, but when I looked at him I felt that it wasn’t him at all. He looked different somehow. He looked skinnier. I can’t really put it into words, but it wasn’t my Matthew. He was gone. This was just his shell. And as I reflect on this now I can see that this actually comforting for me; knowing that Matthew was not in that box but with his Lord.
After sitting and crying for a bit we got up and stood around the coffin. JB wrapped his arms around me and we all wept. JB prayed for Matthew, and we wept some more.
After giving Matt a kiss on the forehead and saying goodbye, we went to tell K that we were ready to leave. She reached out and gave me a hug and said “He looks great doesn’t he”. What? No! He doesn’t! He looks dead!
“Yeah he does.” I replied.
I think that K may have become a little bit desensitised to death. I mean she deal with it everyday, but for us it was our first experience and we often found her quite insensitive about it all. Oh yeah! And the music she had playing! Far out it was terrible!!!! Matt would have hated it!!
It was a beautiful day outside so when we left K and the funeral home we went to Burrawang Pub and had a beer and some wedges – and a debrief.
Anyway, I strongly believe that Matt would be so proud and thankful about the way My People have looked after me over the last 3 months. So thank you friends, you are amazing.
( Me and two of My People )