White Roses and Wine
White flowers surround her casket and pictures, just as she had wanted. Soft music played slowly as grieving friends and family walked in: all dressed in white from their heads to their toes. Michelle Stine was my best friend and she was only thirty-two when she passed. She was so strong and watching the cancer take over her was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Her husband, Karter, and her son, Jason, sat in the front. Karter’s face buried in his hands as he sobbed for his wife. Jason sat there with a long face. Poor child, he’s only seven and is already learning what true heartache is. I walk up to the casket that holds what once was my best friend. I stared down at her body and what I was looking at wasn’t Michelle. Her once sun kissed skin was now drained of all color, her body lied hollow, and he everlasting smile had faded into the deceased grin that they had forced onto her. Her natural face was caked with makeup to hide the discoloring. This wasn’t the girl I remembered, and this isn’t how I want to remember her. The dress that they placed her in was white, again just how she wanted, and her long, rich brown hair was placed neatly around her shoulders. A tear escaped my eye and ran down my cheek, splattering onto hers. I longed to hear her voice, her laugh, I desired to see the sparkle in her eye she got when she was happy. I miss the long talks we would have at two in the morning about our past and how well our lives had turned out. And most of all I miss the times before the cancer. When she didn’t have to worry about taking care of everything to come after she was gone. When she was free and careless. I rubbed my hand on her lifeless cheek and kissed her cold forehead.
“I miss you so much,” I whispered.
How I desperately want her to magically jump out of her casket and dance with me one more time. The slumber parties we had when she was pregnant with Jason, the long nights she would call me crying because she wanted to leave Karter, and the days we spent trying to figure everything out: everything we had done now seemed like time wasted. I walked away from her, knowing that the girl laying there wasn’t the girl who I had spent much of my life with, and went towards her son. The only thing I had left of her. I knelt and looked into his soft, blue eyes.
“How are you doing, bud?” I ask.
He was quiet and trembled as the words escaped his mouth.
“I miss her,” he says slowly.
I go in to hug him and he collapses on my shoulder, sobbing. His tears were cold and his cries for his mother broke my heart into pieces. He was showing the grief that we all felt. After what seemed like minutes of us sitting there while he mourned, I felt a large hand pressed against my back.
“That’s enough,” I heard a scolding voice whisper.
Karter, who was obviously upset, was one to hide his emotions behind his man bun and goatee. A man with a large ego who couldn’t dare show his grief to anyone, not even for his wife. Jason pulled from me and looked down towards the floor. I looked at him with sad eyes and turned to find my family.
Evan, my husband, waved me over to the seats. I sat between him and my eldest baby Mace. She was sitting next to her twin brother Kale, who had Zander sleeping in his lap. I held Evan’s hand as the service began with music playing and her pictures gliding on the wall from birth to death. Dozens of pictures of her and I from childhood to now appeared on the screen. My heart was twisted and mangled from the sight. Tears escaped and ran down my face.
Evan wrapped his arm around my shoulder and held my close.
“I miss her, too.” his voice trembled.
Michelle’s mother stepped up to the podium, wiping her eyes with a tissue, and spoke to the large crowd.
“Seeing you all here today just reminds me of how loved my daughter was,” she started, “Michelle has always been a very radiant, happy girl. She looked for the good in everyone and probably trusted too easily at times.”
Her voice was trembling, and she blinked rapidly as her speech went on.
“When Michelle was nine years old she met a very wonderful girl, whom she would end up having by her side all the way until her death, and I would like to give a special thank you to her,” my face reddened as I realized she was talking about me, “Miranda, thank you so much for taking care of my daughter and being there for her when she needed you. I will forever be grateful for you.”
Her speech ended with her being carried back to her seat. Her sobs were loud enough for the angels in heaven to here and powerful enough to make those of the strongest of hearts cry. All except Karter, who was now walking towards the podium. He stood there for a moment staring at everyone and nodding his head slowly. There was only one thing that was good about this man, and that was his charisma. He could speak in any situation and make someone feel more confident. It was his super power.
“Thank you, Cheyenne, your speech was beautiful. Almost as beautiful as my wife was,” he was already off to a good start, “Michelle was a strong, beautiful woman who was always there when any of us needed her. And I know it would warm her heart to see so many of you here today. There are many things that I am going to miss about my wife, but the one thing that will be the hardest to let go of is her smile. Her everlasting, shining smile. I swear you would look at this woman and if she wasn’t smiling there had to have been something wrong,” he paused and waited for a few people to chuckle.
Flashing his own smile now he continued, “Although at some points of our marriage we were on the rocks, I know that there will never be a woman like her. There is not one person on this earth that can make me as happy as she did, and I will never be complete without her.”
Not one tear escaped this mans iron heart. For someone who was so hung over this woman, he didn’t seem to mind that she was gone. Maybe the comfort of the hospital bills no longer showing up in his mailbox was softening the blow of her death.
He slowly walks away from the podium and towards her casket, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek, and then back to his seat next to Jason. There is a long, heavy silence over the crowd before I stand up and take my place at the podium. My throat swells and my eyes flood with tears.
I pick up the note cards I had prepared for today and I just can’t bring myself to read the rushed words I had written down. They were meaningless.
Silent tears rolled down my cheeks as a crowd of mourning friends and family members stared at me. Finally, I swallow the lump in my throat and force myself to finish the ceremony.
“Michelle Starling was not just my best friend,” my voice trembled, “She was my partner in crime, the first person I had ever learned to trust, and the only person that stayed by my side through everything. I’ve known her bright smile since we were five years old and I never thought I would see the day where I would have to live without it.”
I took a deep breath and looked towards her mother. She wiped her eyes with a tissue and gave me an approving nod.
“When my mother passed away, she was right there with me. I remember we both took a week off of work and sobbed on the couch, devouring the thirteen pints of ice cream and binge watching Criminal Minds. When I got pregnant with the twins, Mace and Kale, she was waiting outside of the stall while I ****** on the stick. She was there in the room while I was in labor. And that’s the hardest part of everything,” my makeup was nothing but black streaks running down my face, “Learning to live without my best friend.”
I collapse onto the floor in loud sobs. Evan ran to help me up but my legs felt weak. He sits on the floor with me and holds my head to his chest.
“Shh,” he whispers into my ear, “I’m here.”
He runs his fingers through my hair and even though the crowd was staring at us, I felt like I could sit there forever. Because this would be the last time I would ever seem Michelle’s face, even if it wasn’t the face I remembered, it was still her’s.