I started yesterday with fear -- how would I ever make it through the rituals of burial without collapsing, without weeping and screaming at the loneliness that filled me? And then I learned -- as a dear friend told me I would -- that I was not alone after all. I've been overwhelmed with the love that surrounded me, and with the love and respect that so many people showed for my husband.
We had an overflow crowd at the visitation, and an amazing mix of people whose lives had been touched in some way by Floyd as he simply went about his daily life. There were Past International Directors who talked about what all he had done for Lionism, and there was a warehouse man whose only contact had been loading pecan boxes into the trunk of our car during a fund-raiser. There were former students of mine, as well as former faculty colleagues. There were current students at the Southern College of Optometry, looking wide-eyed at a death that touched them too closely. And there were at least two gentlemen well over ninety years old, who still walked with joy, not fear. Floyd's fellow governors who ran the Tennessee Lions organization in 2003-2004 rubbed elbows with young Lions who knew no one except their local club members. Offices closed: Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service shut its doors at noon so that the staff could attend. The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau attended en masse, as did the Germantown Chamber of Commerce staff. Strangers talked to one another and discovered mutual friends. Old friends who hadn't seen each other for years held mini-reunions. My neighbors were there, some of them discovering for the first time how much good that quiet man in Building 6 had done for his city and state. There were miracles occurring all over those funeral parlor rooms, and one of them was that I learned to smile again and hug the people who offered me their love. And if there were a few tears, they were elicited by happy memories.
I can't begin to say thank you to all the people who have buoyed me up during the past week -- thank you for your cards and private messages, for the memories you have shared, for the pot of soup and the box of cookies, for your phone calls, the pep talks, the helpful hints, the offers to come over and help with anything I need, and for the many donations that have come in to honor Floyd's memory. Thanks to the funeral home staff who made everything happen effortlessly, and to the seven impossibly young airmen who carried out the full military honors ceremony at the cemetery with dignity and solemnity.
I may become something of a hermit for a few weeks, while I absorb all the lessons you have taught me and while I figure out how to manage what this new life will mean, but please be sure that I will never forget what you all have done for me -- and for Floyd.