By Bruce A. Smith
Chapter 28 – Trey
I got the phone call at 10:00 am
“I would’ve called you sooner, Dave,” Terry said, “but I know how you like to sleep late. How are you?”
“I…, umm…, I’m coming around, Terry.” She was right. I was still in bed, lying in a groggy twilight when she called. “Ummm. How are you?”
“Good. Great actually, personally. I’ve resigned, effective next week.
“Good for you, Terry,” I said.
“You know you’re gonna be in charge now, permanently, or at least sharing things with Anita.”
“Yeah, okay…oy,” I took a deep breath and sighed.
“But, listen, I have some sad news….,” she paused. “Trey died last night.”
I took another deep breath and nodded to myself. I didn’t feel like saying anything but I knew I had to respond, let her know I had heard her.
“Yeah… Okay. Wow.”
“We knew it was gonna happen, right?”
“Oh, of course, Terry…. I just can’t say much right at the moment…. I don’t feel like talking.” I was listening to the rain outside more than I was paying attention to Terry.
“I understand, Dave. I’ll be brief.” She paused. “Did you authorize Trey’s adoption by Karen and her husband?”
My attention drifted back to her. “Kinda. Karen asked me as I was leaving Unity last week. I put it in Anita’s lap, but I told Karen she had my blessing…. It’s raining outside, Terry.”
“Yes, I know. Well, Anita is telling everyone that you authorized it and now things are a little squirrelly in terms of how Trey’s body is to be disposed of.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“Karen wants the funeral service to be at Unity with the burial in the lawn right outside the basketball court.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Me, too, but the Board is in a tizzy. They’ve never done anything like this before, especially with no one knowing if the adoption is legal. Karen wants all the Men and Women of Honor to be there when we put Trey in the ground.”
“Sounds just about right. I like how Karen thinks.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Listen, Terry, I think we should bury Trey just like Karen and her husband want. If there are any problems with DSHS down the road we can always inter the body and give it to whatever social worker wants it. In the meantime, we have a clinical and public health problem. We have a body to dispose of. Tell the Board it’s a temporary measure. Allay their fears. We don’t want any infections spreading to the residents of Unity House or its staff. Second, we have a psychological issue. A beloved resident of Unity has died in Unity. He did die in Unity, didn’t he? Karen and John didn’t ship him out to UMass-Amherst for a bone marrow transfusion, did they?
“No, they came around to your thinking, with the help of Dr. Kim. It probably prolonged his life a few days – the operation probably would have been too much for his body.”
“Good. So, back to the burial. All the residents and staff are entitled to grieve. It’s wholly appropriate to have some kind of service in the house for a deceased brother. To do otherwise would be clinically negligent.”
“I like how you think, Dave.”
“Give me a ride?”
I called Karen and got through.
“How you doin’ Karen?”
“I’m up and down, Dave. I’m up because I’m getting to be a mom, but I’m down, because I’m preparing my son’s…funeral.” I could tell Karen was losing her composure.
“The ceremony is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Dave,” she continued softly. “I hope you’ll be here with us.”
“You can count on it, Karen. Put the word out, girlfriend. Your son had a lot of friends in this town, and being that it’s Day 14 and radiation’s way down we should have a good turnout. Plus, it’s rained and washed a lot of the dust away. That should put people at ease.”
“That’s what the military thinks. Eric and Montoya think we’ll be okay for at least an hour outdoors. But, just to be on the safe side, we’re going to shuttle people in from Millbury High School on FEMA buses.”
Trey got a splendid turn out – we needed two buses. General Mayfield was there along with the Governor of Massachusetts, who made Trey a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, posthumously.
Trey had a 21-gun salute as we laid him in the ground, but best of all he had his mom and dad standing by his side. Karen threw a red rose on his casket as it went down, and I wept.
The dozen Unity Board members present beamed throughout the burial, but they looked scared, too. Liability anxiety is a condition of the job, I guess.
Willy lasted another three days, dying in the afternoon. At the end, Karen and her husband were holding him in their arms. They knew their son had lived and died with this kid.
Ryan, always the follower, died two hours after Willy.
Willy and Ryan didn’t have the big shots at the funeral when we put them next to Trey, but I think they had better. Most of the current and former Unity House staff came in – twenty or so full-time staff – and fifteen-part-timers and on-call folks. Ryan’s Uncle Johnny and Aunt Jennifer were there looking proud, and a little relieved, too. Maybe their family’s ordeal had ended on a bright note.
Walking out to the grave site from the Commons room, I sent a quiet prayer to Willy’s mom.
Lady, wherever you are, maybe lost in your pain and crack, I want you to know you son is loved and is being buried with honor.
I sent her a mental picture of Willy being surrounded by the thirty-five staff who risked a little dust to say goodbye to her son. I knew it would touch her soul, somewhere, somehow.
We had an honor guard from the Army, along with a bugler. When the casket was going down and the bugler blowing Taps, Deon shouted:
“Wait! Hold it. Bring up Willy’s body!”
The bugler stopped in mid-song.
“Dave!” Deon shouted again. “You gotta bring up Willy’s body. He doesn’t have his colors.”
“Yeah, Dave,” Kevin P shouted. “Willy doesn’t have his beret or scarf. When you lay a Man of Honor to rest you better make sure he looks good, Dave.”
I was flustered.
“C’mon, man,” Kevin A said, standing next to me. “Ya gotta do it.”
“Please, Dave.” Naleef’s voice squeaked from across the grave.
I shrugged, then stood tall.
“Deon’s right. Bring him back up,” I commanded.
The burial escorts Montoya had provided tugged on their ropes. Willy’s body came back up to ground level.
TT went with KA into the house to look for Willy’s colors, and after five minutes Terry and Karen joined them. But, no one could find Willy’s scarf or beret, and we didn’t have any more because TT had given John, Trey’s new dad, the last of our supply the week before. So, I gave Willy mine.
Fortunately, Ryan had never taken his off, so we were able to complete our burial. So, if you ever ask me where my colors are, know that they are being worn proudly, just six feet down.
Good therapists, like good fathers, always give the best they can.