“That’s a great phone,” I whispered to the boy. “You should probably go take some pictures or something.”
Jim leaned forward in his seat on the other side of Charlotte and gave me a questioning look. I just shrugged. I didn’t know who the hell this kid was, but I was pretty sure he needed to leave me alone. I had three teenage daughters who were lucky I even liked them, let alone loved them. I didn’t do well with other people’s children.
“My name is Luke. I like chocolate!” the kid announced.
“I can see that. You’ve got it smeared all over your damn face,” I replied, scrunching up my nose in disgust as he leaned his dirty face closer to me.
“You said a bad word!” he whispered.
“I’m going to keep on saying bad words if you don’t go away.”
Charlotte snorted and Jim just shook his head.
“That’s my grandma up there,” Luke said, pointing to the open casket at the front of the room. “She’s dead.”
This just made Charlotte laugh harder for some reason. She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle the noise and I elbowed her to shut up. I’m pretty sure this room of sad people wouldn’t be too happy to hear her laughing like a hyena.
“Okay, dude, run along now. Go take some pictures.”
I was starting to get a little uncomfortable with this kid. He was a regular Chatty Cathy and this was supposed to be a quiet time of reflection for the deceased or some shit before the priest came in and said a few words.
I was so busy trying to shush Charlotte that I didn’t notice that the stupid kid decided to listen to me. He ran along, and he definitely took some pictures. You know how those old flip phones would make noises when you took a picture like the clicking of a camera or something else equally annoying? Well, in the middle of “quiet time,” when half the room was crying softly and the other half was deep in prayer or whatever, at the front of the room, right in front of the casket was our little buddy Luke. He had his flip phone open, pointed directly at the dead body of Mrs. Lyons. I’m pretty sure we were the only people in the room who saw what he was about to do, but that all changed as soon as he hit the “take picture” button. In the quiet, somber room filled with death and sadness, the mechanical, overly cheerful voice of the flip phone said “SAY CHEEEEEEEESE!” followed by the click of the shutter releasing.
“Jesus Christ, did he just take a picture of his dead grandma?” Jim whispered.
Charlotte was laughing so hard at this point she started choking. I couldn’t believe what the fuck had just happened and for some reason, it became the funniest shit in the entire world. I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep the giggles contained, but that didn’t stop my shoulders from shaking as Charlotte and I huddled together, both of us whispering, “Say cheese!” in between our snorts of laughter.
Luke’s mother finally got her head out of her ass and came running down the center aisle, snatching the phone out of his hand as she gave us a dirty look.
“We did NOT put him up to that!” I whispered as she made her way down the aisle past us, dragging Luke behind her.
Charlotte let out a cough/snort/laugh that was so loud, the entire room was now looking at us. Our very first funeral and we were going to get kicked out of it. Everything just became funny at that point and it didn’t help that Charlotte kept whispering “say cheese” and “I wonder if I could get a five by seven of that shot?” We decided to make things easy on everyone and excused ourselves from the funeral before they asked us to leave. Really, I think that little bastard Luke should have been the one to get kicked out. He started it.
I FIND MYSELF thinking about that funeral and how my children have no idea how to deal with death and sadness or something awful happening to someone close to them. Charlotte sits across from me at the kitchen table looking miserable and I’m at a loss on how to help my child. How can I help her when I don’t even know how to help myself? She’s no longer a fifteen year old at the funeral of the mean neighbor lady. Her fiancé’s mother, the woman she herself thinks of as an aunt, is sick and it’s scary and that little asshole Luke isn’t here to diffuse the situation with inappropriate pictures of his dead grandmother. My daughter needs my help and I need to find a way to give it to her.
“What should I do, mom? Gavin is trying to act all strong and he keeps telling me he’s fine, but I know he’s not. I know he’s freaking out and I don’t know what to do,” Charlotte tells me as tears fill her eyes.
“Honey, all you can do is let him know that you’re there for him. He’s going to continue being strong and not showing any emotion in front of Claire because he doesn’t want his mom to see how much he’s hurting,” I explain. “He’s a guy. Guys don’t want anyone to know they’re scared. Look at his father. Carter has been rearranging their house and putting everything in alphabetical order. That’s his way of coping.”
Charlotte lets out a sigh and I move my chair to her side of the table, wrapping my arms around her.
“He’s my best friend, mom. I don’t want him to be scared. I just want to make everything better for him, but I can’t. I hate feeling so helpless.”
I always thought my oldest daughter and I were so different. She was always the bubbly, happy girl who made friends easily and looked at life with rose-colored glasses. Right now, I realize we’re more alike than I ever knew.