You need to know writing this particular post is hard. I have tried for several weeks to put down my feelings around Luke’s wake, but there is a lot of emotion still tied to that evening. It dawned on me recently that by sharing out the events around Luke’s death, I am reliving it all over again. Some days I am strong enough to do this; most days I am not. I am motivated by the thought that maybe a newly bereaved mama will stumble across this blog and will use it to plan a wake worthy of the sweet child she is missing. And so I begin.
A wake is not for the person who has passed away. In truth, the wake or calling hours as some refer to it, is for the people who are left behind. It’s a much needed chance to look another person in the eye and say “I’m sorry. I loved him, too. ” Luke’s wake might have been the most important night of my life. John and I wanted it to be a true reflection of who Luke was and the things that were important to him. We didn’t want it to be a traditional deal with hushed voices and crying and a long line of people you don’t know to say “I’m sorry” to. So we were thoughtful about the decisions we made, and mindful of the fact that so many teenagers would be there. The night was everything we needed it to be. Here’s what helped my heart:
Miles Funeral Home. Miles was recommended to us by a close friend. They were compassionate, thoughtful, and professional. From start to finish, Rick and his team made the experience as easy as possible for us so that we didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. They were also understanding of our desire to keep the wake true to Luke and accommodated all our requests. I still remember showing up for Luke’s burial and they had put a canopy over the grave site, blocking out the sun. It was gloomy and I hated it and with one comment they had it moved without a grumble. Yes, I know they get paid to do this, but they still do it WELL and I am thankful for our experience there.
The personal touches. There were so many small things that made the night “Luke”. When you walked through the door that night we had put up a sign. It’s the image for this blog. We really wanted to set the tone from the moment you came in. It still makes me smile thinking about how many people commented on that sign and how it put them at ease. There were photo posters everywhere that Jodi and Berkeley, Donna and Sue, and my Dad and TJ had made and they were just such a great way to remember Luke at his happiest. We had two videos going that night, also. The tribute video was one and Berkeley had made a more personal one of the Luke Inwood she knew. Berkeley was also responsible for the memory jar. I have mentioned this before and I will blog about it sometime soon. I’m not sure the wake would have been as warm without the Berkeley touches. She has my heart forever because of this. All these little things created an atmosphere that made it feel more like you were coming to see us at our home and I am grateful for the feeling of warmth and love all these things created.
The basketball. I can only giggle when I think about the basketball. My sister came up with the great idea of having a basketball at the wake that the kids could sign as they came through. We put it on display with a silver sharpie and were all set. Well, Luke’s closest friends were invited into the wake a bit earlier so they could have a private moment together. They loved the basketball idea, but it turns out they didn’t want anyone else to sign it so they kept taking it and hiding it. 🙂 Someone would see it and put it back where it belonged until we got wind of what they were up to. SO the basketball was put away for good and now rests with Lukester forever. Those lads.
Music. If you are close to any of the Inwood family, you know we breathe music. Miles offered up the usual canned classical stuff, but we wanted a soundtrack of Luke’s life. This was an afternoon of picking just the right songs, but I know we nailed it because so many people commented on it. Yep, there was some swearing, yep, there was some rap, and yep, it was perfect. John and I also picked a few songs that reminded us of our relationship with our boy: Old Man by Neil Young, but performed by Redlight King; Dearly Departed by Shakey Graves. And thank goodness for Dearly Departed. I will write a love letter to Shakey Graves soon, but every time that song came on I would look up and see the long line of people and it would fill me with the strength to keep going.
1,326. That’s how many people came through. Well, that’s how many signed the book. John and I were blown away by the outpouring of love from the community. So many people from Rutland, from Wachusett, from Pop Warner, from Boylston – all there to give us a hug. Or maybe I should say, all there so I could hug them. I knew in my bones that the wake was my opportunity, maybe my only opportunity, to let people know how important they were to Luke and how much he loved them. So as each one came up, we would hug and then I would talk about their connection to Luke and how much it meant to us. They shared their stories and their tears. It was personal and beautiful and perfect. We were hours, HOURS, getting to everyone, but it was well worth the long night.
So what I need you to know is this: If today is your Day One, you need a wake. You need it, your family needs it, anyone who loved your child needs it. There are moments from that night that I will remember for the rest of my life and in a very good way. So, please do this. Really plan it and make it a true representation of who your child really was, swear words and all. Yes, it’s like saying goodbye 1,326 times, but your heart will be glad you did.