I always had a ritual when someone died. I'd pop in a CD I had made, and hit repeat on number ten- and just sing along. Track ten was always I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie. I'd just listen to it over and over again.
I hated gearing up for the funeral. This one in particular. I wasn't sure if I should even go, but I made my own choice. I put my suit on, all black with a little white. I combed my short hair. Put my sunglasses on that I had always put on. My nicer shoes I had gotten to wear for interviews.
I drove to the cemetery, the middle of fall there were leaves everywhere. The sun shone bright above the graves. A line of cars marked the drive, as chairs sat in front of a podium and a casket. It was like something out of a movie.
I sat in my car, watching. I was late, never could be on time for anything he put on. I saw people who wanted nothing to do with me, crying. I saw people I hadn't spoken to in months. Everything changes in the blink of an eye.
I got out and walked across the lawn, crunching leaves. I quickly took a seat behind a few I still spoke with. I couldn't listen to the man preaching something about God as I sat there. I could only play the song over and over in my head.
"At this time we ask friends and family to come forth to say a few things about Vincent."
I listened to his family and friends remembering the good times. Saying he would be missed. One saying they wished his death could've been avoided.
"Does anyone else want to speak at this time?"
"I would," I said loudly- the song still playing in my head. The man nodded and gave me the podium.
I walked up slowly, everyone's eyes on me. My sunglasses covering my eyes, and how I truly felt. As I got closer I could see his lifeless body for the first time in the casket. Nothing seemed real.
"Hello everyone. Some of you may not know me. I was Vincent's friend during college. To many of you, I was a friend too. I was told I shouldn't come here today, because people would think I was dancing on his grave due to our falling out. That's not why I'm here.
"I'm here because life is fickle. One day you're eight years old and carefree. The next you're thirteen and wondering what's going on with your body. And the next thing you know, you're married with your own eight year old. People change, and we all change with them.
"For Vince and me, life was fickle. We had our ups and downs. We grew apart. And we had a bad falling out. But I changed just as he did. I'm a forgiving man, now. That's why I'm here. Not to just forgive, but to forget those downs. I'll forget the disagreements, him and I acting like assholes to each other. I'll forget the hate, because life is too fickle to remember that.
"Instead I'll remember him as a friend," I nodded. "I'll remember him as someone who was willing to help someone who was dealing with more issues than anyone could know. I'll remember him for bringing together the friends we had, instead of separating us. I'll remember every laugh, and every smile. Because that's all that matters.
"I have a ritual when someone in my life dies. I'll play this song over and over again. I Will Follow You into the Dark. So, Vince- despite all the bad we had at the end, if there's no one beside you- I'll follow you into the dark. I'll follow you into the dark."
I stepped down. I couldn't tell what people were doing. I didn't care. All I could hear was the song playing in my head. The man stood there, preaching his last words. I watched as the casket was closed and the coffin lowered into the ground.
Everyone else went to throw a bit of dirt on top, as I disappeared to the back of the cemetery. I breathed in the new fall air. I watched and listened to the birds and saw squirrels playing on the graves.
No one said anything to me as I stood there. No one said hello or goodbye to me. The cars slowly left. I looked back at the scene and nodded.
"I hope the dark isn't too bad, old friend."
The wind picked up like a movie. I got into my car and turned it on. The radio turned on, track ten still on repeat. I drove off, listening to the song one more time.