Pandemonium (the last portin of part 1) ….

We left of as Shelly was trying to turn around to see the casket for one last time — let’s pick up and finish up —

I don’t know what happened next.

I walked out, and hugged his family goodbye, see you tomorrow for the ceremony and that they would be over earlier to go to the ceremony together.

I dreaded tonight and tomorrow morning. I would go early so the girls could somehow adjust to the surroundings.

Night came, the house seemed so empty, mom had left already, it was just me and the girls.  I went through the fridge to find some type of food, oh wait, there was a box dropped off earlier by Suzy.  I went through the box, made a quick meal for the girls, let them eat and put them in bed.  I walked through the house, so clustered, such disarray.  Travis’s cloths already donated, they had to be donated, except a few outfits that I had kept, His uniforms, so they girls could know what their daddy did, still hung up, his bulky shoes still on the mat. Mail piled high on the stand in the kitchen, and now a pile of cards to open and read.  I made some coffee, and started.  reading the sympathy cards.  At times, they do find the right words, some cards had checks and some had cash.  So thoughtful, so appreciated, at least I knew I could buy some groceries next week, and that I could pay some bills.  My dad made sure that I had contacted the Survivor’s link to report Travis death, and reassured me that the girls and I could be finically decent until I found a job, after finishing school.

It took a while but the last card was read, last name written down, for I needed to remember to send out Thank you cards, and wrote down the names of all the fire halls to send thank you notes.  Death. Funeral. They say a divorces are hard and difficult and the mounds of paperwork to go through, proving death to my school was hard.

Morning came, and it was time to get ready for the ceremony the girls dressed in white and black polka dot sundresses with a big pink button on the side.  Take away the situation they looked adorable. I couldn’t drive that day either, so Lizzy drove me, as Suzy and her family my parents and the girls.

We pulled into the driveway; I glanced at the sign near the road, which read

R.I.P Travis Silver.

I entered the building that had already members from surrounding fire communities, family, friends, and even scattered family members from previous chapters of my life, adopted parents, foster parents and biological parents.  I made my way up to the front and sat with my youngest on my lap.  I turned around and once again tears welled up in my eyes seeing a sea of black uniformed caps on the heads of the members of the fire community.  All uniforms crisp, faces weary, eyes red, backs straight.  It would make one proud to see such a sight.  Goosebumps ran down my body.

As I turned around, seeing the American flag and the fire community flag next to Travis’s closed casket, I couldn’t think.  I so wanted an open casket but it was told to me that it would be an inconvenience for they would have to usher everyone out to close the lid.

One of the firemen form his company came forward, Terry, one of the co-workers of Travis, who helped him by coaching him to lose weight.

“Let me assure you right now, today…. that spark you saw in his eyes was 100 times brighter when he talked about you and the two girls. The three of you were the light in his life,” said firefighter Terry.

Oh, that spark. Travis’s eyes would sparkle when he would retell a story of how a fire was put out, or whose life was just saved.

Another firemen went on to say” He had great skills and respectable bed-side manner,” said Captain Otter. “He and I recently took an ITLS class together, and Travis really excelled, even doing better than some Paramedics in the course.”

Towards the end of the ceremony, Jim came forward with the words,

“This is the last call, for Cherry Hill firefighter Travis Silver. In your short time in the Cherry Hill Fire Department, you touched many lives. Thank you for your dedication, sense of humor, and huge heart. Although you are gone you will never be forgotten. God Bless.”

As the assembly said farewell to Silver after the services, his final call came from dispatch.

The golden bell reminded me of a smaller bell from Pa.

As it was struck three times, chills ran down my spin.

One. Goosbumps, I tried to swallow my tears.

Two. My God this is happening. I tighten my hold on my Daughter.

Three. No. No.

Someone was tapping me. It was time to rise. My mom takes my daughter from me. The pallbearers start to carry the casket, the congregation starts to walk out the back. My body quivering I follow, Lizzy next to me, carrying me as I try to keep my head up.  We walk out of the rec room.  We slowly and solemnly walk out the side doors and there was a line of firefighter’s on both sides of me, bag pipers are playing Amazing Grace in the background. The respect that was being shown for the man Travis was beautiful.

The pallbearers stop as they reach the Hurst.  Oh God, this is not happening, I wanted to rush forward, throw back the lid, this was not happening, he was alive, he was somewhere, this is not true.  But I know it, this was the last time, I would ever be close to him again, even it was five feet away, even if it was in a casket, it was his body, his soul was not there, it was here, it was surrounding us.  I shake as the pipes are played, the scanners go off

“This is the last call for Firefighter Travis, May You Rest in Peace” —

The back doors of the Hurst are shut.  The director gets into his vehicle and drive off, leaving the assistant director in charge.  His assistant stays, and motions for everyone to go inside for refreshments and lunch.  I couldn’t eat.  I just couldn’t, I could hear laughter as stories are swamped, tales are traded, and memories are being remembered and made.  A while passes and the chief calls me up to the floor.

“When a firefighter passes, such as Travis, we retire the number, and give the helmet to his spouse” he says.

“Mrs. Silver will you accept this offer”  the chief asks of me.

“Yes, and please, remember, my door is always open, please stop by, anytime”, I reminded them and gingerly took Travis’s fire helmet out of the chief’s hands.

“Thank you” the chief says and the circle of firemen nodded their heads in appreciation.

“And thank you” I told the chief and nodded back to the circle of firemen.

I clutch the helmet like my life depended on it, It still smelled like him, it still smelled like smoke and sweat.  Such a relief.

I wouldn’t have his body in three days, but later that day as the family gathered at my house and sat at the dining room table I made it aware to the family that I planned on putting him to rest as soon as I received the ashes.

“Better not be Friday”, his younger sister quipped,” its show day, “

“What” I asked in disbelief.

“It’s show day at the fair, Scotty is showing his cow, we can’t bury Travis Friday”

What the fuck I think. You mean to tell me you prefer showing some piece of beef then burying your brother.

“Okay” I managed to say.  “Is there anything can do, o that you want to remember Travis by.  Luke, I am giving you his shotgun since you two had that memory when you were younger.  Please take it and remember Travis fondly”.

“Thank you. Do you want anything for it”. Luke asks.

“No, why would I charge, this is something that you had with him”.

“Oh Shelly, while were here, we think you should hire an attorney to handle the paperwork for the accident” Luke says with a matter of fact attitude and the rest of the siblings nodded and leaned in with approval of what Luke has just said.

“Huh?” I ask, I had no idea what they were talking about.

“You will need an attorney we have one in mind, he’s good Chester knows him”.

“No I don’t know him, someone I know knows him”, Chester says, correcting Luke.

“Anyways, the sooner the better, you need to file a lawsuit and sue the other driver, you should c’mon Shelly, the other driver killed Travis, he is alive, he basically took food of your table, cloths of your back and money out of the bank by killing Travis, he was the breadwinner, and you cant afford daycare and a job!… not in this town, and yeah, you’re in school, you can’t get a job right now and be able to do it all.  Besides he needs to be brought to justice, make him pay for the pain you feel”. Luke declares.

Okay, I was accepting of the help from an attorney that I had no idea how I would be able to afford, but any help with the paperwork form the car insurance would be gladly be accepted, for I had no idea what paperwork laid in store for me, all I know is that it was a lot.

After meeting with the attorney some of my anxiety was put to rest, but I was still skeptical, so much had happened in these four days; I hopped on Facebook to see what was happening in the on-line world to escape my reality.  The house was still oddly quiet, there were dishes in the sink, still hadn’t eaten that day, and the pile of mail…but…it could wait, why bother?

I penned the following after looking at Travis’s page, to read what other’s had written to him,

To my Teddy Bear,

It has been a week since you were taken from us. The pain in my heart it’s just. I cannot find a word for it..but bear with me love, you know I eventually find a word…you know…I wanted to tell you that your daughter’s are in excellent hands and that not to worry there is an extraordinary support team standing behind us… I miss you, miss you more than words can explain. The time you asked me to go out with you still plays in my head like it just happened yesterday…your laugh, your touch and your smell …. your hugs could just make everything bad disappear…I wasn’t afraid of the world when you were here for we fought together… but then again if I was the world I wouldn’t want to mess with us either ..col.. we were perfect together ….. well at least in heaven you can bite those fingernails all you want — col — I love you Travis, and I know it will sound childish but it’s not fair…. but we need to understand that heaven may need you more than us (even though that is difficult to process)… you have a blast up there, and I will see you when it’s my time —

Something changed in me that night.  I switch was turned on or off, not sure what.  I was now the head of my household, I was the women in charge, I was now a single mother of two beautiful girls, my husband was killed, and now, I was on the path to find out what, why, and what the fuck needed to be done next, and I dared to whomever in my path to stay there.  The next two days where tedious, getting caught up on the gardens, going through the fridge  that had barely been open, phone calls to the funeral home for now they could give me back his uniform, his rings that he had on those two days, as well as the urns that contained Travis’s now cremated body.  What once was flesh was now turned to ash.

Holding his rings just started to clarify that his body was not here anymore.  They had become ashes, why of course, they were ashes, these urns held what used to be his physical body.  I have one, his sister who cared, and the fire hall, the three places that he loved to be at, three places where he felt happy.

Now it was time to bury the ashes, the day was sunny, but not our hearts as we stood under the tent, I did not shed a tear, but I was choked up.  I was becoming angry, I was angry, how dare he leave us.  Only a handful of people came out, and it seriously started to dawn on me how things were going to be played out, how empty the words actually were, how insincere some comments were.

I came home, fed the girls, laid them down for their afternoon nap and penned these words:

Would like to take the time to thank each and every individual that has stood by our family in this time of sorrow. We appreciate it. Even though Travis’ body has been laid to rest today,  the memories of him will never die nor fade away. – August 6 – 2011

“Ah, to think how thin the veil that lies Between the pain of hell and Paradise.” George William Russell

After Travis’s body was laid, the traffic died down immensely, but, that was already taking place.  Barley anyone called, texted, stopped by or anything.

Days afterwards of burying Travis’s body, the harassments from the neighbors started.  Cruel words were said, crude and cruel comments were thrown my way.  The hurt that was felt got to the point, I couldn’t even open my curtains for the taunts were so earsplitting horrendous.

I had to start to look for a new home for my daughter’s and myself.  Not even a month had passed since I laid my husband, my daughter’s father to rest.

Luckily, I still had the support from Suzy who gave me a night off one Friday. I took the chance to clean out the garage that night.  I walked into the two car cement garage with the paint peeling on the sides, and I felt weary already.  I took down some construction helmets that were resting on the garage shelves, my fingers grazed the stickers that Travis and I had placed there not even three years ago, his scent wafted towards my nose, and I knew I needed help to get this job done.

I ran towards the back entrance of our three bedroom home and grabbed the full bottle of whiskey, two bottles of rum and a full bottle of hypnotic, and carried them out to the garage.  I downed the bottle of hypnotic like it was water.  I started to throw odds and ends into a box…stuff I had no clue whether or not to keep but I knew this had to be done.  As I downed the bottle of rum, I walked over and bent down to hold close to my heart ..his helmet, and smelled his scent that still lingered, I started to ball, now the bottle of rum was gone. I crawled over to my whiskey, unscrewed the lid and started to gulp the liquid down.  It felt like syrup as it passed my taste buds. As I sat there, memories washed over me, I started to succumb to the alcohol that was inside.  With each gulp, the pain started to subside, as I finished the whiskey I collapsed on the garage floor, holding tight to the helmet that Travis and I stickered together with his names and Union only stickers.

I was awoken suddenly to my phone ringing, my speech still slurred it was Lizzy

“Hey girl , how you doing” she says cheerfully.

“Not good, I need someone” I slurred as I try to sit up.

“Oh …I’m sorry I already drove by, wish I could have swung by….you sound kinda drunk you ok” Lizzy says.

“No, I need him Lizzy” I started to weap again.

“Oh, I know sweetie we all do” Lizzy says trying to console me, all I could think was Fuck you saying we all.

“I started to pick up the garage and I came across his helmet Lizzy, …I started to cry it still has his scent” I went on to tell Lizzy.

“Oh that sucks Shelly, I am on my way up to meet Daren, you know that cutie I told you about” Lizzy says.

“I need someone here Lizzy” I cried unto her.

“I know sweetie we all need someone” Lizzy stated.

Then it hit me like a plank, it was only the girls and I.

In a way it’s sad but sweet …. both girls now hold onto multiple pictures off their daddy to go to sleep …. During the day those pictures barely leave their hands well except to get after one another …

“Oh okay Lizzy you go have some fun”.

That night I would have the shock of my life, for a distant friend of Travis would stop by.  After I hung up with Lizzy.  Matt phoned and said that Lizzy had called him, and it sounded like I could use someone.  I said I did.

I rushed inside the best I could in the somewhat stupor shape I was in, brushed my teeth and fixed my face and hair for it was just horrid.

I had mentioned to Lizzy earlier that week that I wanted to pack the china cabinet that still held Travis’s ashes and photos with other mementos, but I needed help packing them for the move, for I felt like I was packing him away.  All I could say if someone asked me at that point would be to:

When I hear silence all I want is to hear ur voice/laugh/ur heartbeat… when i see ur pic all i want is u in mortal form.. when i try to sleep at night all I want is u too say hush my love it’s gonna be alright and wrap me in ur strong arms … they say time will heal … but my heart is still heavy … my muscles ache and my heart/soul/eyes r still waiting for u to come

I cannot believe it — I am already halfway through this current term and need to register for next term classes as I am packing.  I felt like saying “c’mon life give me anther fucken ball and I will  hit it right out of the atmosphere, like I haven’t had enough for a while.

The move went decently enough, never know I had so much shit, until I started to pack a three bedroom house myself, I was fortune, for I had help from Travis’s brothers and family.  It was odd; since Travis had passed the brothers appeared to be somewhat humane towards me.  Yet, perhaps it was because of the girls and the responsibility they felt.  It can be sad that it takes a death for family to feel that.

I reached out one more time through Facebook,

Would like to take the time to thank each and every individual that has stood by our family in this time of sorrow. We appreciate it. Even though Travis’s body has been laid to rest, the memories of him will never die nor fade away.

Even though these have been beyond trying days I am very deeply appreciated of every text/calls …. my door is open to anyone/everyone that wants to share memories and or even cry….. We all know Travis…yet we all carry a different piece of him…..

There was no response, my phone didn’t ring or text.  I was alone in this canyon, I was my own guide.

It was early September now; the girls and I moved to a house that we had hoped to call home.  But there was a flaw.  The house was located near the lake, where there was a special moment that I held dear and near to my soul.  Within five hundred feet where I would lay my head down at night was also the same place where Travis confessed his love he had for me.

When we had started to date we had to do it in secrets of his family for the crudeness that was shown, my parents were happy that their daughter was happy.  One day, I had enough once again for what I was hearing through the grape vine; never know so much of one until you speak with the town gossip, so in retaliation I penned these words

seriously — want to know how i truly feel — okay here it goes — every muscle in my body hurts and aches -from the top of my head to the soles on my feet- I can’t sleep — my girls are always up to no good (always getting into mischief and making messes – but hey that’s kids for you — right?)– i had to move for the safety of my family only a little after a month after my husband was killed — my world is shattered yet I’m still trudging on — i hit a bottle after bottle after bottle for one night cried my eyes out laying on the garage floor for i found a helmet that my husband had worn that we put together with those “stupid” stickers on it — i smelled it and it still smelled like him — every day is battle that i feel as though i am losing — yet i still trudge on — each day i feel as though something else is about to be taken from me — so this is how i feel — it is so flippen u know what — it’s so fucken irritating how you try to be so good and remain so fen positive and u still end up paying the price for someone else — it is so fucked up that now every time i have to explain to someone new that yes my husband is deceased — I don’t want pity –i want to be able to talk about him and have the ability to give them the understanding that Travis was an incredible man -I want to share stories with others that knew him as well- what else is fucked up — each day my girls are numerous times saying “daddy in heaven” and sometimes they do it out in public — of course heads turn — and yes i say “yes daddy is in heaven but what else is daddy” — they pipe up and say “daddy a hero “– so yes — i may appear to be “ok” — but lets take a deeper look then just the shallow outer appearance — lets look into the eyes and see the hurt the pain — lets listen to my heart that aches/and is broken — i seriously just want to give the fucken middle finger to the “time will heal” bs… but hey lets go back to where I normally pipe up with each negative comment and say well at least — (for yes, i can be quite levelheaded) and say that yes we moved to a place that is nicer — yea – guess what — about 500 ft. from where I sit now is the place where Travis first told me he loved me — 500 ft from where i sit now we planned our 1st move together — 500 ft from where i sit we would spend so much time together just sitting and gazing out at the water. Watching — talking– getting to know one another on a more deeper level — so with this battle inside my heart the battle inside my mind — the battle that I fight for my girls — the battle i fight just to get by — no one will truly comprehend – no one (ok perhaps a few will ) can understand thoroughly how mentally/emotionally/physically exhausting each day is- and that is another fucked up concept — so that is how i truly feel — i feel — i feel fucken old – sept 6, 2011

sep 28

My Love,

You know…it has been 9 weeks…yeah…i cannot believe it .. it feels like just yesterday when the news came of how you would not be coming home to us..ur wife…ur daughters….each time i ponder about how we will go on without you here it breaks my heart…each time i think about how it was you who would walk down the aisle to give our beautiful daughters away on the day they will wed i cry …. how we were going to make our children’s futures and childhood better then ours … and now …. or how when our daughters give us grandbabies … or how we would talk about our girls going into sports and how we were both gonna try and be there to cheer them on …. or how you wanted to advance everything you know …. or how we were gonna redo our vows …. each time these and more thoughts cross my mind not only am i wanting to cry but i become angry love…. I don’t understand how someone as strong and unbreakable as you … someone that was trying to create such a positive and healthy role model for their children can be taken… and how someone that is a disgusting piece of human flesh can still walk around disgracing the community they live in … babe just remember i love u …. and god damn no words can express how much i really miss u — ur essence — ur touch — ur soul -ur mind – ur hugs – ur everything — i miss hearing ur voice as read to the children — i miss talking with you — i miss seeing u at the end of the day and u telling me everything that had happened — i miss cooking/baking for u — i miss taking care of u — i miss ur spontaneous and adventurous spirit — i miss cuddling with you — you made me feel so safe — i miss .. i miss .. u….. i miss seeing you holding the girls — i miss ur laugh — i miss us …. i even miss us taking each others toothbrushes -( but hey u started it )- i miss ur little quirks and i miss our ability to compromise on anything — i am exhausted without u — i miss helping u on anything that u needed — i would say let me know if u need anything up in heaven cause i would try to send something but u wouldn’t — ur soul was pure — all i want is one last day with u but … i know that can not happen — i miss hearing i love u coming form u — u were so gentle yet so invincible —- u were perfect and we were perfect together —

I am tired, Beloved,

of chafing my heart against

the want of you;

of

squeezing it into little ink drops,

And posting it.

~Amy Lowell,

Your Green Eyed Vamp, (col .. I can still remember how you picked that one)

And some more from “Pandemonium” …..

I am actually quite happy with myself for releasing parts of my novella to the public….granted it may not be for all, but it can be helpful to some …

Yesterday we left off as Shelly was overcome with the emotional pain that she felt after speaking with Travis who was lying dead in the casket …

I kissed his forehead, hugged him once again, and starting to walk away.   I couldn’t, halfway down the aisle, I stopped, collapsed on the floor, and started to bawl my body just rocking back and forth.  My mind was spinning, my world upside down, by heart shattered, my soul broken.

Felt like a lifetime went by until the tears stopped, but they did, I stood up and walked out.  As I was walking down the aisle, I was stopped by another uniformed firemen.

“Shelly there is a man here, claiming to be your father and a female claiming to be your sister”

How the fuck did they find out? I thought. Who the hell told them?  Oh my god, there is going to be an incident, they are going to cause a scene.

“I don’t want them here” I remarked.

“Do you need me to handle this, and tell them to go away”

“No, I will handle this” I reasoned with myself, that sure I can take this on as well.

Sure as shit, as I opened a side door, there they were. Pathetic.  Oh, how am I am gonna do this I thought.

“Hello Dad, hello Ashely” I said with bitterness.

“Hello Daughter, we came, how are you” he said.

By no means was this male my dad, nor my father. He just participated in the act that created me.  All the bull that he has pulled through the years, raping my mother, not being able to provide, preferring alcohol and tools before providing for his infant daughter’s.  The things this male has done, whatever.

“Travis is inside”, I told them.

“We can’t stay long daughter” Fred said. Good I thought.

Fine, that’s okay with me I thought.  “Oh, okay” I said.

As we walked towards the casket,   Ashley remarked “It smells in here, why does it smell”?

I blow the question off. No sense in trying to explain it to her, she’s 24 and has the brain of a seven year old.

They quickly glance at Travis and diverted their eyes. Within ten seconds of being in the building and seeing Travis, their bullshit started.  This time car problems.  Normally, I would listen and give some helpful hints or tips.  This time, I couldn’t take it.

“You know what, that is my husband, the father of your nieces, your granddaughters, I do not have time right now, nor do I care, right now, if you cannot show respect for Travis or myself, who you claim to love and care for, then get out”

They turned and left.  A month later, I changed my number, and haven’t seen them nor heard from them ever again.

The second wake was about to start.  I walked back to the bay area of the firehouse and stood next to Lizzy.  A couple of firemen came up to me, eyes stricken with grief, as I look at them, I reassured them that it was going to be okay, they couldn’t talk.

IT was time. Time for me to take my place next to Travis’s side again.  Suzy came back up and took her place as well as Lizzy would too, but behind me.

Seven different fire companies stopped by this time.  Trails of black, blue, green, white uniforms each color from different company.  These were men and women that I didn’t know, but somehow Travis knows them.  Lives that were touched by them, served with them.  Majority of the members would come up to me, shake my hand or hug me, giving me their condolences, and tell me of what a great man Travis was, and what a lost to the community it was.

There was a spell of where there was not a soul up near the casket and I looked across the rec hall to the family and friends that were sitting in chairs, some in groups, some swapping stories, some wiping tears, some just in a trance.

“Such a great man, so youthful” I overheard a person say.

Out of nowhere, a young woman entered jean shorts, a tee-shirt, beautiful hair, red eyes, rush up to the casket, look, and rush out while saying “I’m sorry”.  I had no idea who that was.

Minutes later, co-workers stepped up, saying it took some time to make it up here, I just couldn’t, I can’t, he, he was so great to work with”. There were people who couldn’t make it up to the casket, for they couldn’t bring themselves to do so.

8:00 p.m came, I watched people leave. The Honor guard that was guarding my husband’s body was dismissed for the night.  No, it was not time.

I glanced back and there out of nowhere was a line of uniformed officers lining the walls of the rec hall.  I was surrounded.  No.  No.  They cannot shut the lid.  No.  They cannot take him away. I felt tears rise up.  No. I was looking at his body for the last time.  The very last time to see his face, his chest, his nose, mouth, ears, fingers, legs, feet and so much more.

Suzy wept “can’t be time, can it, no Travis, Shelly, can’t you do something… don’t, it …cant…be..time”.

I watched as she bent down to hug her baby brother for the very last time.  Weeping Suzy says “we are going to miss you Travis.”  Her husband proceeded.

Me.  I wanted everyone out.

“Can we keep the lid open, please, I begged”

“No”.

“Can I sleep here, one last night”.

“No.”

Oh my god, my body started to shudder, I bent down to give Travis his last hug, I fixed his collar, kissed his hands, looked at his nails, which her bitten unbelievably short, no dirt though.  After hugging him, the last time I saw Travis was through a blur of tears, as I walked down the aisle. I tried to turn around but I was instantly meant with a wall of uniformed officers, I couldn’t even see the casket anymore.

.. a tad bit more from “Pandemonium”

Yesterday we left off as Shelly was seeing Travis in the casket … let us pick up now —

As I stepped closer and closer I could see Travis’s hands placed carefully on his stomach one hand over the other.

So grey, so lifeless. Travis was indeed dead (or a very well done imitation of Travis being dead).

I felt like letting out a shriek of despair, my baby, my love, my teddy bear, my all, now he lies here cold and frozen in time.

Dead.

Next to his casket stood two solid firemen that were standing guard. Travis was going to have a firemen’s guard, where every two hours they would change guard.  In their hands they held an ax. The American Flag proudly displayed next to his casket, a few feet away stood the bell.

I finally forced myself to make the last couple of steps to his side, and I wanted to collapse, for this is what I had been waiting for the last couple of days, just to see him. I had asked if I could see him at the morgue before but was denied, or perhaps they don’t get that question a lot.

I lifted each of my daughter’s in tears, so they could tell their daddy their last goodbyes.  My oldest waves, tries to give a hug, and cries as she says,

“I wuv you Daddy” Catherine says not quite sure exactly what is happening.

My youngest at the age of two, knows something is wrong, but waves her bye-bye to daddy

“wuv you too daddy” Marissa utters outs.

Here Travis lies, in his black, sleek, crisp firemen’s uniform.  On his left ring finger, his wedding band.  On his right, the platinum band that I had personalized just for him, for his birthday. In the middle of the top of the thick band was the firemen’s emblem. I traced the symbol with my fingers, while the memory of how this ring caused a little controversy came to mind.  I had just given this ring to his birthday last March and on inside the band in old English the words “MY HUSBAND MY HERO” engraved.  I thought he would love it, which he did, he just mentioned that

“It feels weird to wear two rings, and I think I look gay”

“No you don’t look weird, it looks good on you” I had told him.

I couldn’t look at his face yet, I couldn’t, but my eyes traveled up his body, and my eyes eventually landed on his strong, but now lifeless face.  In his black hat  he used to carry the pictures of his girls on the inside top pocket, I knew it was still tucked inside.  They had asked to make sure that the outfit would have a hat of some sorts. They wanted to make sure that gash on his head was not visible to others.

“How did he get a gash on his head?” I questioned when I was told this, well like the director would know that.

His friend Mark had replied,

“Shelly, when his truck flew and hit the tree, the impact caused the gash on his forehead”

That had sucked my heart further.

Now, here he is, I started to hear voice behind me,

“Oh my god,” Suzy, whispered, hand on her mouth, tears whelming up in her eyes.

“MY brother, my brother, Travis, why?”

I couldn’t answer, but soon…soon the building will fill.

I must take my spot now. I assumed, for I saw a uniformed fireman start to walk up to me, hands directing me to my seat, my chair next to Travis’s casket.

This is not happening, I must be in a dream.  I have to be.

I sat down, but tried to keep my chin up.  I started to notice friends, family and his co-workers walk in, some walking directly up in the aisle and  some walking to the side where there was three picture boards set up.  Yesterday afternoon and evening I had spent a few hours trying to create his life in pictures.  How do you do that? Thirty five years in pictures but only on boards, but I did, somehow I had and had brought in little memoirs from each chapter of his life.  Displayed were helmets from road construction crews, the cigars he had bought when the girls were born, his high school diploma, all his certifications he had earned from OSHA to the more recently medical certifications.

As I stood next to him, I wanted to reach out and wake him up, hug him, but I couldn’t and I had done that already, his body was so…so very cold, so frozen.  His heartbeat was not there no more, and I already miss that to no end.

After an hour of listening to some more apologies, shaking hands, wiping away tears, and most not mine, reassuring everyone that the girls were fine, and that I was, well good as I could have been.

I needed a smoke. Lizzy signaled a fireman that I needed a break.  He mentioned that to take the back door for some privacy.

I had to, not only to wipe my tears, but to lessen my anger for what I had just witnessed.

Travis’s family was never close, I mean damn, when we first started to date, one brother would yell crude terms out at me, and it was hard to avoid at times.  My mom and step-dad dad lived right next to Travis’s family for years.  Travis took an interest in me after I meant and reconnected with my mother a year before. Travis had finically supported his brothers and mother for years, and when he eventually moved out four years ago they were furious.  When our courtship first began his mother had accused me of just being with him for his money, I often wondered what money and so did Travis.  Yet, three months after dating we had moved in together and he had to undergo kidney surgery. His mother started to like me, but never talked to me.  His father had divorced and moved out when Travis was eighteen.

And now, his father entered the building, with his booming voice, and his behavior acting like he was the father of the year.  What the hell. Inferiority. Oh, and his brother-in-laws family just coming in and automatically turning their backs on Travis, never looking at the coffin which held the man that worked for hem for years in his youth.  Never, stopping by to even give their condolences to me or Suzy. I couldn’t take it. I had to get some fresh air.

I as I sat down on the cement block, Lizzy sat down next to me,

“How you holding up” as she held me and whispered in my ear.

“I, don’t know Lizzy, it is so hard, I don’t know what to do”

“People have starting to hand me cards, they’re in a pile on a chair, you should read them”

“I will, ..later”

“Okay let’s get back in side”

I opened the door, tried to throw my shoulders back, trying to act strong.

His sister Suzy soon placed a chair next to mine, which in a sense gave me some strength.

I observed his two brothers on the other side of the hall, elbows on their knees, heads in their hands, every now and then glancing up at their baby brother for one, older brother for the next, and I caught them once glancing at me.  I wondered if now, if they were sorry of how they treated all of us, his brother, their nieces, and me.

It was brake time, for two hours then the second wake would start.  I dreaded every minute, for I know that soon it would be time to close the lid on the casket.  I had hoped for an open casket so I could have a few more minutes to see him, before his body was never mine again.

I had to walk out, but requested that I have some time alone with him.  My wish was granted.  I walked down the hall where the rest of the siblings were, the kitchen for lunch.  I was sick; I did not want to eat.  I sat down, and clutched our wedding bands, and my engagement ring that was on a long silver chain that was given to me my Lizzy.  I listened as everyone talked, talked about the news, and swapping some stories about Travis.

“Shelly” Tim said, another fireman that served quite often with Travis, who also had daughter’s that were the same age as Travis and mine.  “You need to eat, have you eaten anything”?

“No” Lizzy said, she hasn’t eaten anything since Wednesday

“Shelly, we cannot have you faint or pass out, please eat something, even if it’s a bite of the cake, just eat, you look so pale.”

“Or” Lizzy who was trying to be funny now “We can hook you up to an IV line”

“Fine” I tried to shovel a couple of bites of cake in, it was decent.

I told Lizzy and the firemen that I need some time to be with Travis.

As I walked I felt like a zombie, felt like I was in a different life, I peeped through the window on the door that led to the rec hall, I saw Mark and his wife sitting next to Travis.

Mark’s head was in his hands, elbows on the knees, I could see his shoulders moving up and down, he was sobbing, his wife’s arm reached out to rub his back, I backed off, and snuck outside to smoke.

I walked outside to have a smoke; there were a few stranglers left over, and some firemen from two other companies mingling about.  I was still in a daze; a few firemen mentioned that it was going to be a okay and how great a guy and fireman Travis was.

I put my cigarette out, thanking them, and that yes he was.

Now it was my time, my time to be alone with my husband, my time to be with the man that I loved and admired and looked up too.  This was the man that I adorned, who taught me so much.  This man that was so strong, and that at first glance nothing could take him down.  Travis was this man, a big burly man, arms so strong that at one time we measured to see if my thigh muscles was larger or smaller than his bicep, of course, his bicep was larger than my thigh.

As I moved towards his casket, so many words, so much to say, so little time.  I placed my chair closer to the casket, but I bent down to hug him, but my tears shoke my whole body,.

“Why Travis, why. We were so good together. You were so strong, so powerful, so invincible. Why. I am so sorry Travis, so very sorry.  What am I going to do without you. Our girls, Travis, what about our girls.  Who is going to help rear them, who will walk them down he aisle. Travis, I am so mad now, you, you Travis, you were supposed to walk them, teach them, be their daddy Travis.”

I sat down, and wiped my face, tried to wipe the tears away that was on his uniform.  I held his hands, and just sat.  I told him, about the updates about our girls, who were with my mom at the house.

“Travis, I will do the best I can.  Those girls will be okay, I promise you, in my best ability to do the best I can.”

I kissed his forehead, hugged him once again, and starting to walk away.   I couldn’t, halfway down the aisle, I stopped, collapsed on the floor, and started to bawl my body just rocking back and forth.  My mind was spinning, my world upside down, by heart shattered, my soul broken.