We stood inside the funeral parlor taking in the pictures, flowers, plants, and other testaments that people brought to honor Brad. I stood by her side as she took a deep breath in and let it out knowing that the doors would soon open to the rest of the world that was grieving for Brad, for her, for their family, for themselves.
Brad was very loved and it was moving to see the sincerity on the faces of people trying to convey their heartfelt sympathies to Gina and the rest of the family. I think I speak for all her friends when I say that she was so strong as she gracefully accepted those sentiments along with the hugs, and the condolences.
Gina's friends had arranged the service such that a few people would come up and read from a book of memories that she had made for Brad this Christmas. This book is an amazing legacy for Brad and is filled with stories from his many friends that Gina had gathered together in order to give to their son Max so that he would know EXACTLY who his father was.
Her friend, Kristi (or Christy, or Christi, or...) gave an extemporaneous introduction to the service and the meaning behind the book. For the entire day leading up to this, none of us knew if we'd be able to read. We each had a fall back plan just in case we stumbled and couldn't go up or became overwhelmed and couldn't finish our piece.
Gina went up first and I stood by her side...just in case...but she was so strong, she set the tone for the rest of us. Their friends Josh and Megan each read one story from someone else as well as their own. Megan was great as she read a letter from their friend Craig, who shared a love of Beavis and Butthead with Brad. I don't think she was prepared to say anything even remotely close to the word bunghole at a funeral service, but she did and she got many laughs from people who had been crying just a second before. I went up next and was followed by Nettie and Adrianne, Brads mom and sister. Nettie also made the mourners laugh...a couple times.... I was so impressed by her strength and ability to articulate so clearly her love for her son. It was also moving to listen to and watch his sister bring us all a little closer to who Brad was. Patrick was the last to go up, he read his letter to Max which included many of the touching Haiku's that Brad often wrote.
I think by the end of the service, everyone in that room knew Brad a little better. We all came from different parts of his life, we had different memories, but sharing them together allowed us all to experience him as I can only imagine he would have wanted us too... as someone worth such a beautiful legacy.