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Part VI---



I have this sinking feeling as I enter the funeral home, as though experiencing the death of a friend is like being Atlas carrying the burden of the whole world on his shoulders. And in some ways, it is.


All of my favorite memories of time I spent with Maxwell are slowly but surely coming back to me this morning. The first inkling of their return began last night as I wrote a brief account of different times during our school years in order to explain how fragile youth can be. Now even more of those memories are coming back like a barrage of bullets from warfare, even exciting the emotions that I felt when they originally happened. Some make me laugh, but they all make me want to burst into tears now that there wonít be any more of us pushing each otherís buttons or our opinionation wars-or imparting our deepest wisdom to each other-until Iím dead, too (which Iím 99.99% certain will be a long time from now).


I survey the chapel, which is nearly full save for the three front rows on the right side, as I search for a place to sit. I know some of the people here, but there are even more I donít know.


*Thump*! My heart slams into my ribs when I realize that I was closer to Maxwell than any other woman save for those in his family. Suddenly I feel like Godzilla among ants, and it intimidates me. This is not gonna be easy.


The first speaker approaches the podium almost immediately after I take an aisle seat near the middle of the chapel. He reads the obituary column from the paper first, then he reflects on some of his memories of Maxwell-many of which I recognize the purely Maxwell characteristics: his favorite football team, his shy nature, his passion for math and science, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Itís overwhelming as it stimulates my recollections.


The second speaker starts with a deeply Christian approach, but still he moves on to reminisce. I look down at my feet and notice that there is a box of tissues leaning against the pew in front of me. It must be an act of God, because my equanimity is hanging by a fraying thread.


Finally the ushers begin to dismiss the crowd, row-by-row so that everyone can walk by the casket (itís closed, thank goodness; Maxwell prized his dignity) and the photo collages that someone kindly created in Maxwellís honor.


People pass quickly; I recognize some but not all of them. The one who captures my attention the most is Maxwellís and my gifted class teacher, Mrs. Fannin (formerly Ms. Elbridge). She hardly hesitates at the casket and photo collages. I wonder why at first, but not for long: Upon seeing the expression on her face, I can only release the tears that she is attempting to choke back.

***



When I finally exit the chapel, I go into the ladiesí room and endeavour to weave my equanimity back together (although there is no way to weave it tightly right now). A few of the girls from Maxwellís and my graduating class are leaning against the wall in the restroom. I know they see how much this whole ordeal has affected me, but I, Arlene Millicent, do not care if I seem like a fool, because I owe the emotion, the tears, the respect to my seven-year-strong friend.


ďHeís in a better place,Ē Delia assures me.


I know sheís right, but itís a bittersweet notion. Iím glad that Maxwell is in Heaven, yet at the same time it hurts to be left behind.


After I leave the restroom, I search for Mrs. Fannin, albeit unsuccessfully. She must already have left the funeral home (not that I blame her one iota for it). So instead, I make small talk with a few others before I call Grandmother Pearl to come pick me up.


Despite the fact that I want to leave, going with Grandmother Pearl is against my wishes. But I decide against giving myself an excuse to be useless and depressive all day at home. Today might not feel like a typical day with Grandmother Pearl, but I am still going to give it a shot, like Maxwell did every day in spite of his pain.


------
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation

The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.

"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"

"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls

Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.

Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"


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