People were already leaning against the walls around the mortuary when we sat down in the last two chairs on the end of the back row. I wasn’t sure where to sit at my brother’s funeral.

My husband leaned over to ask about the people in the old photos scrolling on the screen hanging from the ceiling. He recognized the one of the eight-year-old girl holding her brother in footed pajamas across her lap. I began explaining the crooked arm of my family tree in a whisper, when a friend stood up and waved us over to the front row.

I told her I assumed there wasn’t enough room.

It’s what my father told me on the phone when I asked if I could live with him during my teen years. I’ve been hesitant to assume there is a place for me now. Sometimes the kiddie table in the other room feels the most comfortable.

We found a place on the far edge of seats, in front of long time family friends I met as a child, feeling like stagehands among the cast and crew. Aware how comfortable my heart beat on the inside despite the weary road of letting go.

After the memorial service, my Dad stood up red faced, relieved to have averted showing emotion for the loss of his son. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into a group of friends huddled in consolation, introducing me to friends of years.  All of them, strangers to me.

I wondered if they knew I had a branch on the tree, if my leaves resembled the others.

I shook the hand of the hair stylist who knew about each move we’d made over the past ten years. Hugged women who told me they read my blog, how touched they were by my words. Several stood in line waiting to meet the daughter who they knew from pictures propped up on office shelves for years.

And just behind death, He prepares a plot of epiphany. A door waiting for interpreters to twist the knob open to the truth, for those whose mouths are mute.

Love is a constant companion for endless days of wondering. Sometimes it takes a stranger to break the silence and help you see.

I hugged my father and told him I loved him. He peeled away, tilted his head back with his hands on my shoulders and said, “We need to spend more time together.”

“Yes Dad,” I agreed. “We do.”

what every child longs to know

by Shelly Miller time to read: 2 min