There is a point in the finiteness of consciousness where dreams and reality overlap and become indistinguishable. This is where the coincidence, which I am about to relate, took place. But is anything ever coincidental? What factor determines dream from reality? Each experience is its own reality. Til it slips to memory, where everything is real.
It would never have come to light had there not been a picture accompanying the death notice. But there was a picture. It was announced that visitation would be at a certain funeral home on July 7th, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm with services to follow. Three days from the time the notice appeared in our local newspaper.
I found it both strange and amusing. For one thing “John Does” don’t usually have services at funeral homes…with visitation. Secondly the picture. I determined I would go to the services, as I was curious to see who would be there to pay their last respects and morn the loss of this ‘Mr. Doe.’
There was one person who would be there for sure, George. I never knew George’s last name, but everybody who has ever gone to a funeral in our town has seen him, sitting in the back of the room, perpetual smile on his face, whispering to himself.
George goes to every funeral. Such a constant fixture at those functions the ladies don’t even cut their eyes at him anymore. I guess going to funerals is his hobby. Some people play golf, dome people collect stamps, George goes to funerals.
I’ve never seen him talk to anybody but himself, though I have seen him nod to people. As a matter of fact the last funeral I attended, several months ago__a childhood friend who had passed away of natural causes, George nodded to me. The service had ended and I was leaving. Rather distracted by my grief over my friend and the thought of my own mortality, I nearly bumped into him. He sidestepped, nodded to me and went his way.
For an instant we had been in very close proximity and I remember realizing that what I had always thought was a smile on his face wasn’t a smile at all, but a characteristic; the way his face was structured. I thought to myself, ‘Mild retardation.’ And the smile on my face, which was an automatic response to what I had assumed was his smile, faded.
Resisting the temptation to call and tell them of the error, that not only did their ‘John Doe’ have an identity, he was alive and well, I waited. After all, I didn’t want to spoil it.
The wait was made difficult by the fact that I was on leave of absence from work and had nothing pressing to do. I used the time catching up on my reading and working crossword puzzles.
When I entered the funeral parlor I was surprised to see so many people. some of them looked vaguely familiar, especially the lady and several young adults and children weeping on the front row, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen them.
It was obvious from the number of mourners and the atmosphere that the error had been corrected. I hadn’t bothered to go out to get a paper after that first day, so I was very curious as to who actually occupied the coffin.
I stood before that coffin looking down upon the paltry figure inside for a long time. When I turned back to the mourners I saw George. He was sitting on the back row smil…no, not smiling; looking at me. I went back and sat beside him. He turned to me and whispered, “Yes.” There was a long silence, then he whispered, “I am here to serve as your guide.”