Saturday, September 7, 2013

A 17th Birthday and a funeral

It is a very unique experience to go to a funeral on one's birthday. Few people in the world can say that they ever have. 
I mentioned in my last post A Flutter of Spring that I returned from my trip to Kilimanjaro to find out that a classmate of mine had died, and three days ago I found out when the funeral was. 5th September. My birthday. Oh goodness...

It's been very, very hard these last few days. On the 1st the shock was only setting in, but being around my fellow students and friends really brought it home to me. I've been crying on and off for the last three days, while also having awesome bouts of clarity about this happening. One would think that going to a funeral on one's birthday would make the entire day depressing and somber, but it didn't for me. 

I have a birthday tradition that entails golden balloons, helium ones, hanging in my room on the morning of my birthday, as many as I'm turning that year. This year was no different, and they were as beautiful and bright as their presence always is to me on my special day. I awoke to them, and they adorned my room while I wrote in my journal before my mom brought me breakfast -delicious- and a little bag of gorgeous trinkets, one being a vintage Hemingway book called The Snows of Kilimanjaro. My heart melted. My mom's gifts, for any occasion, are ever thoughtful and absolutely perfect. Eυχαριστώ μαμά, πάρα πάρα πολύ, για όλα. 
Σ 'αγαπώ.

It was time to go to school after, where we would be for two hours before leaving on the bus for the funeral. We didn't do any work if you were wondering. None of us have been in the mood this week, so we sat for a good while just talking about Nicholas and what a fantastic guy he was, reminiscing on all the funny moments and amazing memories we all shared. One wonderful thing that has arisen from this tragedy is that my grade has bound together in support and love, and we have all just been there for one another in this sad time. 

It's a rather curious thing that the same objects we use in celebration of life (birthdays, parties, etc) are used in the context of death and letting go. The day before my birthday, during our last hour of the day we were all called to the auditorium. We knew when our high school psychologist, Fred entered that this had to do with Nicholas. When his parents walked in, the entire grade stood from their seats, in a salute to Nicholas, and in gesture to their loss and our deep sorrow. 

His mother,a wonderful lady, thereupon expressed to us, no tears, Nicholas wouldn't want us to be sad. A few years ago, our school was rocked by another death of a student, so in an effort to aid the mourning process of his fellow students and family, each one of them wrote a short letter to the young man or in whatever manner they felt right. They then tied it to a helium balloon to be set free all together in a giant circle on our field. We decided to do the same for Nicholas.

We all allowed our tears to flow that afternoon while we gathered together and watched the sky alit with the beautiful rainbow colours of our balloons. It was a most lovely way to let go, but also to celebrate his life.

The funeral was not as hard as the previous days had been. The church in which it was held was completely filled, with all the people whose lives had been touched by Nicholas in some way. 

It was quiet too. After the priest's short ceremony, three of his closest friends went up to give their speeches. They spoke of his notorious love for watching a movie at the cinema three to four times over, his adventurous climb of his and his neighbour's roof, a school lunch noodle saga, and all the wonderful and cheerfully funny times of his life. Some of our teachers went up, the most touching being the speech of our Afrikaans teacher. Lastly, his father went up, giving us a stunning tell into what an amazing boy he was and how remarkably wise he had been. Afterwards, wow, what a life that has left us, we all thought. I've been lighting candles, my family and myself, for Nicholas every day. 
To send him, and also his family, light and love.

Since we were not expected to return to school, my dad, mom, brother and myself went out to lunch, spending some fantastic family time together. That afternoon I then spent reading, writing, playing violin and visiting with a friend and her mother who came by. Two very special ladies. A Quattro Stagioni pizza without the artichokes and with extra garlic was my fabulous supper that evening and I sat with my mom and talked about life and all that had happened in these past few weeks. 

A most magnificent birthday it was.

P.S I also received some of the most fantastic birthday wishes. 
I thank you all deeply.