The church mass had gone brilliantly. His favorite companion--a large stuffed dog called Duke--was sitting behind the casket on wheels, guarding its contents silently as the fat lady sang the Ave Maria, hitting every note with perfect pitch.
After the burial, friends and family gathered outside a nearby restaurant to release hundreds of purple balloons into the windy morning sunshine. Purple was his favorite color.
Later that day, they all got together in three rooms at a downtown hotel near the hospital to do what people do in this time of grieving: They hugged, told stories, ate comfort food, and drank beer, highballs and wine. They laughed, cried, watched some videos and then--totally exhausted--they all left for the evening.
The next morning, I went to say goodbye--and it was different.
His mom and dad were alone in the room. Everyone was gone. Mornings are normally the time they would be spending doing all the things parents do with their kids. But their child was in a different place now--that "different place" people always talk about.
Dad hugged me and smiled, trying to "man up" enough to say goodbye and to thank me for traveling so far.
Then I noticed mom way on the other side of the room. She kind of reminded me of a wet towel, slumped in her chair in a dark corner, sobbing quietly, catching her breath in whispers while tears poured down her face with no pretense. The numbness and the 'be-strong" charade she had put on for yesterday's crowd had ended.
They were both alone with reality now--alone in that big empty room where sadness most people will never experience hung in the air like a heavy grey cloud.
How many times have we heard the question: "How could any compassionate God let this horrible thing happen?" No one, of course, can really answer that.
I think one way that might come a bit closer to finding an answer is to try to imagine ourselves for a brief moment as being God....
Imagine that you are walking ankle-deep along a beach somewhere, enjoying your evening moments. Meanwhile, just below you in the shallow water, something entirely different is going on. You don't pay much attention, but a whole world of scenarios is occurring right at your feet: Small fish are darting back and forth; crabs are flashing in and out of the sand; shells are moving, crawling
These creatures are totally immersed in a world all their own, just as oblivious to us as we are to them. Of course we don't experience their world the way they must experience it, but who knows what is happening down there in that other level of life? Are there wars, hunger and violence? Are babies being orphaned and friends fighting friends? Are both wonderful and horrible things happening constantly as Nature takes its course down there in that other world, as well?
And if by chance you saw a small turtle tipped on its back unable to move and you reached down to turn it over, is your action now perceived as a "miracle of God" by that creature, in whatever way that creature perceives?
Are we all just mini-creatures along a shoreline to another being (or set of beings) who may be more evolved than we are? And occasionally, when that being reaches to fix something down here on our level--is that what we call a miracle?
More importantly, should we as "gods" of that universe below us spend every waking moment reaching down to rescue the downtrodden, the poor, the sick and the victims as the suffering occurs second-by-second right at our feet? Or is there something much bigger and much more mysterious going on out there--as we pause to breathe in the fresh air--and to marvel at the setting sun?
This opinion column is written by Charles Laquidara, who has lived on Maui since August 2000. He worked at WBCN radio in Boston for 30 years as the morning-drive host of a show called "The Big Mattress" and is occasionally heard on Mana'o Radio here on-island. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to his daily ramblings on Facebook.