Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 183

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, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


The winter of 2001 was now gone and the ground was no longer frozen. It was time to bury our son, Adam. We had picked out a burial lot on a small hill in Union Cemetery. It was an awful feeling, knowing that this would mark the last place that Adam’s earthly body would occupy.

The day of the burial started at our home, with our friend, Meridith, practicing a song written by Dar Williams that she would sing at the cemetery with Cassandra. It was a meaningful song that pointed out that we are all “family” in many ways. Here are the lyrics:

Can you fix this? It's a broken heart.
It was fine, but it just fell apart.
It was mine, but now I give it to you,
Cause you can fix it, you know what to do.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

We stood outside in the summer rain,
Different people with a common pain.
A simple box in that hard red clay,
Where we left him to always remain.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

The child who played with the moon and stars,
Waves a snatch of hay in a common barn,
In the lonely house of Adam's fall
Lies a child, it's just a child that's all, crying

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

My brother-in-law Greg picked us up at our house and drove Mal, Cassandra and I to the funeral home so that we could see the casket. Five months before, at the memorial service, we handed out permanent markers and had encouraged friends and family members to write their “good-byes” to Adam on the casket. This was our private time to get to read what was written by the people who knew and loved Adam. After we were done, Greg drove us to the cemetery and I noticed that Laconia Monument Company had delivered the headstone to the gravesite.

When we arrived I was glad to see that the funeral home had put up a large tent over the open grave because it was pouring rain. The funeral director gave out black umbrellas to the hundred or so friends and relatives who came to the service. It reminded me of the burial scenes that were frequently in movies…dark, somber skies with a heavy downpour of rain and a “sea” of black umbrellas. I remember thinking that Adam would have appreciated the image.

After I got out of the car, Cassandra broke down in tears, sobbing for the first time in our presence since her brother’s death.

My memory isn’t very clear about the burial service anymore, but I do remember Cassy and Meridith singing at the front of the group of people. I also remember giving out over a hundred orange roses to the attendees. Then, our friend, Eric Robinson, conveyed an important message to everyone after someone handed out small white cards with the word “Why” on it. He explained that we shouldn’t ask why Adam died. The more important question is “what will we do now that Adam has died?” Will we be angry? Or depressed? Or will we learn to love people more while they are here with us? Eric asked everyone to drop the white cards into the open grave as a symbol of our decision to not ask why.

After the service we invited everyone to the home of my sister Sharon and my brother-in-law Greg. There were well over a hundred people there and while they ate food and shared more memories of Adam, I passed out copies of a videotape I had made that included clips from Adam’s short life. I included bits that had significant meaning to Mal and I…segments from birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings and from his many performances in plays. It had taken me several weeks to put these together and some of the relatives and friends appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Adam through the tapes.

By the time everyone had gone home, the realization had set-in that this was, most likely, the last gathering that would be about our son Adam.

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