Before this happened, I was always of the opinion that I would never attend a viewing of any deceased person – especially a loved one. I always believed that it would be better to remember the person in happy times, instead of replacing that image with that of a … dead person. However, until something like this happens to you, there’s no way you can know how you will truly react or feel.
Maybe it was the circumstances that changed my mind. My son died by suicide and I was in a state of shock and denial (still am to a degree). My older son, Daniel, identified the body, but, for me, there was still this glimmer of hope that a mistake had been made. Perhaps Daniel was wrong, perhaps it wasn’t Barry at all. Perhaps Barry was staying with an unknown friend and didn’t know the pain we were going through. These thoughts would not leave my mind. I had to see Barry for myself and make sure.
On 29 May 2006, my family and Barry’s Dad’s family attended the viewing. I can’t speak for anyone else, and to be honest, I wasn’t interested in anyone else. The viewing was a nasty thing, but I also feel that it was essential.
I was nervous. My stomach churned over and over as we waited to go in. Being Barry’s mother, I was the first to step through the door. From my vantage point, I could see his spiked hair. Already my heart was sinking. I took a few steps closer and all hope was gone.
“Oh, Barry!” I cried.
Gary held me up. We cried torrents of tears as I looked at the face of my boy. We had been warned that he was cold. But we had been encouraged to touch him, to hold his hand. The first time I kissed Barry’s forehead wasn’t pleasant, but it did become easier with time.
My family had seen him, had cried, had tried to comfort each other. We left and allowed Barry’s father, and that side of the family, to have their turn. Sitting outside, in the sun, wasn’t easy for me. I wanted to return to my son. I needed to say the things that I was holding deep inside myself. Yet I waited.
Finally, Daniel (who had gone in with me, and stayed in the room with his father too) called me in. Gary and my mum came with me. This is another thing that I never believed I would do, but again, we were encouraged to do this. We took photos of Barry in the coffin. These photos will be placed in a small album and hidden away. No one will ever see them. I may never look at them again, but if I need to, they are there because as I’ve been told numerous times “afterwards it’s too late to change your mind”.
After several minutes, I asked if I could be left alone with Barry. However, my ex-husband came in after about 20 seconds, so I still hadn’t had time to say the words I needed to say.
We stood in silence – Barry’s mother and father – gazing down at our son. Neither of us able to accept what had happened. In a strange way, I believe Barry would have wanted that time together – just the three of us.
Then, his dad left me alone with him. Not knowing how long I had before some well meaning person came back into the room, I blurted out the words that were troubling me.
“I’m sorry, Barry. I’m sorry for failing you. I’m sorry for not knowing what you were going through. I’m sorry that I didn’t make things right. I’m not angry with you, but I forgive you anyway. I have always loved you, and always will. And I’ll never, ever forget you.”
I barely got the words out and the door opened and the funeral director came in. She was a wonderful woman, who took our family into her heart. She cared for us and she took care of Barry for us. I know that without a doubt. We stood with Barry in silence for a moment and then I said, “I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want him to think that I’m deserting him.”
She hugged me and left, unable to say anything other than, “As a mother, I know what you mean.”
I knew it was time to leave, but I didn’t want to. I walked to the door, paused and turned to take one last look at the face I knew and loved so much. Tears sprang to my eyes and I ran back to the coffin. “I’m not leaving you, Barry. I could never do that. I’m taking you with me, in my heart.”
I kissed him and left.
Click here to go to Part 10: The Funeral