The year Moira's mom died was the best year of our lives. It was the year of late night dancing and endless parties. Of adventures abroad and reunions at home. Of way too many drinks last night and not enough sleep. Of dream lovers, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, and Very Good Friends. Of oh my God can you believe I did that's, oh no he did not's, and you know you make me wanna shout's. Of laughing, fighting, crying, and loving.
I will never forget the night Moira called me from Pittsburgh to pack her bag for her mother's funeral. We went through her closet together. Her voice, five hundred miles away, sounded just like the Moira who had left the week before, before we knew her mother would be gone before the next time we would see Moira again.
I sifted through her clothes, and we debated on what colors would be most appropriate for your own mother's funeral -- our voices as casual as if we were discussing what to wear out that night.
It was one of those nights that will stand out in my mind the way a car crash stands out for the person who picked themselves up from the broken glass and tire marks, and walked away while others lay on the warm asphalt bleeding.
I wish we could have been in the city for something other than what we were there for. The weather was nice. The air carried the dense smell of spring. When we got there, the city lights shone and bounced between the river, buildings, and cars passing each other on the highway. The city radiated life, but in the back of our minds the idea of death clung like moss.
When we finally got to the front of the line it was so good to see Moira. We talked and laughed as if we were standing around our own living room; as if we weren't stuffed inside the living room of the funeral parlor.
We smiled and delicately spoke to Moira as if she was retuning from vacation and we were happy to see her. The momentary lapses in conversation were heavy, but our smiles never faded. She told us her mouth was sore from fake smiling all night, and we all laughed and teased her for the photographs of her awkward years that we found in the collages of her mother's life.
Tears glistened in her father's eyes. Moira, her father, and her younger sister stood stoically with their backs to the casket, greeting the endless line of visitors who had come to share their sympathies. Not once did I see them turn around to face what lay behind them.
Inside, Margot lay like a delicately placed china doll. The cancer had drained the color from her skin and left her bruised, powdered, and hairless. Her fragile arms lay at rest. I wanted to touch her hands, but I knew they would be cold. The last time I had seen her, had touched her, they had been filled with life. I could not bear to see them otherwise. I did not let Moira see me cry.
At mass the next morning we said goodbye to Mrs. Jones. I watched Moira and her family process in and out of the church, following the casket, and felt the blood in my stomach churn as the tears stung my eyes. As Danny Boy wafted from the organ, I opened my hymnal and read the first page. A prayer for World Peace.
My heart broke for Mr. Jones. They were still so in love. Their wedding picture was displayed prominently on the cover of her funeral program. A photo of the two of them dancing in a driveway, band playing, a wide shaft of sunlight glowing from behind the garage.
As we drove home that day we were thankful for the soft rain. We vowed to come back to Pittsburgh in summer to experience the city with Moira for a reason other than death. For a reason that was more within the realm of our twenty-something spirits -- for late nights, new bars, dancing, laughter, and each other.