Very sad day today.  We had originally planned to leave early that morning for the mountains, but couldn’t get the energy up.  We were sitting in the cockpit when Ramon came up and told us about Patrick.  Last night, not too long after he left work, Patrick had a heart attack and died.  He was 46 years old.  We were in shock.  We had to have Ramon repeat it about 3 times as we kept thinking we must be missing something in the translation, but we weren’t.  The wake and funeral were that day, and he was offering to take us.  We said of course, please give us a few minutes to get ready.  I couldn’t believe he passed away last night and they were going to bury him today.  We hurriedly got dressed, not knowing how casual or formal to get.  Wilfredo, the operations manager, went with us to be our translator.  I was still not sure if we were going to a visitation, or the funeral or what.  I couldn’t seem to grasp the fact of just seeing him yesterday, and today he would be buried.

Our driver let us out at a small nondescript building in Puerto Plata.  Except for the ambulance outside, there was nothing to indicate that this was a funeral home.  I am not even sure it was a funeral home per say, maybe just a place they have for the viewing.  The small, gray cement, one story building had an open front to the street, with a door that rolled up.  Directly inside were white plastic chairs, like patio chairs, that a few people were sitting on. Pablo greeted us here.  He was very upset.  We talked to him for a few minutes.  As I looked around at the concrete floor, the plain walls, the plastic chairs, I couldn’t help contrasting it to a funeral home in the States.  I wasn’t looking at it from a judgemental point of view, more as an observer.  In the US, most if not all funeral homes are relatively dark: dark carpet, dark lighting, dark wood.  It’s meant for containment, containment of emotions, containment of grief,  til sometimes it becomes overwhelming and you just want to get out in the air.  Here, the air was all around you, we were right off a street, and while you may think that made it distracting, it really didn’t.  The warm air coming through the open front, the sounds of cars and people passing, the feel of outside, was somehow comforting, as if life, like grief didn’t need to be contained here.  They flowed together. 

Pablo led us into a room, almost like a hallway with people sitting on either side.  I assumed this was where the immediate family was sitting.  We made brief eye contact as we passed them, and Pablo led us through a door to the  small viewing room.  At the end of the room were three large wreaths of flowers with words of sympathy written in spanish.  A guest book for signing was near the door, and along the wall were benches for sitting.  There in the middle of the room, was Patrick’s casket.   The casket seemed heavy, with a older, worn feel about it. A good feel and you knew this was made by hand somewhere, not churned out in a factory.   It was hand varnished, and on the lid, near the bottom of the casket was a gold cross and an engraved plate. The casket was closed, but built into the lid was a viewing window, so you could see Patrick’s face through a glass frame.  Dan and I went up to the casket, but we had the kids stay on the benches.  They could remember Patrick how they last saw him.  There was an older man sitting near the casket and I asked Pablo if that was Patrick’s father and he said no, his parents had passed away awhile back.  Even though Patrick was born in the Dominican Republic and raised here, he like his brother and sister had moved to the States for awhile.  Patrick  himself told me he had been married and lived in several cities in the US before getting a divorce and moving back to the DR.  According to Pablo, Patrick’s brother and sister would be flying in for the funeral which was going to be at 5:30 that day.  

Patrick’s girlfriend came in briefly while we were in the room and then walked out again.  She was with Patrick when he died.  Our Ocean World taxi driver came in and he was crying.  Pablo was crying.  We were crying.  It was interesting to see these men showing so much emotion for a friend. We finished our goodbyes to Patrick.  I signed the guest book on the way out.  As we passed by, I stopped to talk to Patrick’s girlfriend, Angie.  We had never met, but she knew who we were from the kids.  She told us how happy Patrick was about the birthday cards the kids had made for him.  She said he had “They made these for me.  Can you believe it?”  She was keeping the cards as a memento. 

Later that evening we had our own version of a wake for Patrick, like we did for my uncle who had passed away a few days ago.  We went around the table and each person said what they would remember most about Patrick.  Dan said he would remember how happy he was.  Tristan remembered how Patrick couldn’t stop eating the brownies I had made for him.  Tessa remembered how much he loved the picture she drew of him driving the golfcart.  What I will remember most about Patrick, is how after such a short time of knowing him, he inspired us to do nice things, to notice smiles, to make brownies, to draw pictures, in short, to enjoy life more.   What a gift!