Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Life With Comics: Part # 172

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


Saturday, January 13, 2001 was the day of our son’s funeral-memorial service. Lots of people were involved in putting this service together. Our church had members, Ken and Ellen Braley, Artie and Carol Boudreau, and David and Carolyn Lincoln, who volunteered to handle things like preparing the school gymnasium for however big a crowd may show up. We had no idea how many people would come to the service because we had moved away from most of our long-time friends in Massachusetts and it seemed unlikely that people would drive over one-hundred miles to attend. Our church volunteers also made sure there was enough food to feed the attendees. Ellen Braley handled the design and printing of the memorial program that I kept changing even up to the morning of the service. Family members had sorted through hundreds of photographs of Adam and planned a photograph display. Scott Bixby, another church member, offered to handle the music portion, starting and stopping the cassettes that my brother-in-law Greg and I had put together.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to wear to Adam’s memorial service. I’m not comfortable in a suit and I rarely get “dressed up.” I decided to wear blue jeans and one of Adam’s sweaters. Mal wore a long, black skirt and a gray sweater that Adam had given her as a Christmas gift. Several friends and relatives had asked us what would be “appropriate” and we assured them that anything they’d like to wear would be okay with us. (Not that it matters, but Adam would have approved of anything from suits to t-shirts. He loved clothes.)

Even though the service wasn’t set to begin for several more hours, Mal and I decided to go there early to make sure that things were set up the way we had envisioned. There were already several people there. Dean, from the funeral home, was already there and he had about 350 chairs set up. The casket was in the front and several beautiful flower arrangements were on display, bringing much-needed color to the gym. The school principal, David Borchers, made sure we had colored markers for people to write their messages on the casket. Scott Bixby did a quick run-through of the music and made notes so he’d know when to start and stop the music during the program. Jim Morel, our pastor, was also there early to help out in any way he could. He agreed to speak a little bit at the beginning and the end of the service and he gave us the freedom to do the rest of the service as we wanted. By 9:00 am, there were about fifty people in the gymnasium. I remember pacing the floor, nervously hoping that everything would go as smoothly as possible, so that this final “tribute” to Adam would be meaningful.

We had a memorial table set up off to one side and Mal arranged some photographs of Adam and some of his personal belongings including his favorite pair of shoes, some clothes, his guitar, a favorite book, his Bible, and a quilt that Mal had made for him several years ago.

By 11:00 am there were probably 200 people there and the service wasn’t supposed to begin until 1:00pm. A friend asked me if I was having the memorial service videotaped and I replied that I’d never want to re-live this day.

By noon, our close group of friends, including Liz Verhoeks, Jim and Barb Foote, Russ and Jeanne Sample, and Eric and Linda Robinson, all managed to sit together. The gymnasium was nearly full. Mal, Cassy, and I sat in the front row on one side. Adam’s friend, Meridith sat in the front row on the other side and she reserved the seat next to her for Adam’s current girlfriend, Alletta.

By 12:45pm the gym was really packed with people and there were people still steadily arriving. People were standing 3 or 4 deep all around the gym because all of the seats and the bleachers were filled. Just before 1:00 pm, the chartered bus arrived filled with the kids from Newport, Rhode Island. They were a colorful group! Most had brightly colored or unusually cut hair and almost all of them were wearing huge, baggy pants. They were crying and carrying arms full of flowers. Most had orange-colored ribbons either tied in their hair or dangling from pierced earrings in their ears. One boy, with a mohawk haircut and lots of tattoos, came up to Mal and me and proudly showed us his newest tattoo on his forearm. It was Adam’s nickname, “Skaerie.”

Next chapter: The memorial service begins.

1 comment:

  1. My "mentor in Christ" died at 35. She left behind her 3 children, one only 18 months old, a grieving husband and a small church that had grown up with her. By small, I mean we only had about 150 members on a busy Sunday morning.

    Sondi DiGrazia's funeral was slated for a Tuesday morning, and as a church we didn't expect more than our general large Sunday gathering. Imagine our shock when over 400+ people showed up. Sondi had quite an impact on the lives of those around her.

    I say all this cause, like Adam, you never know who you'll be influencing along the way.

    I still sense grief in your heart as I read through this. I pray that healing has come and that your life didn't stop in 2001. I pray, likewise, that your faith has grown stronger over time. Jesus did say "Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." May that same rest be found upon you today.