All I could think about at this time was everything Leo and I were supposed to be doing right now. We’d already planned our future together. He was attending the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor, and I was taking dance. We’d both known what we wanted to do for a very long time. He was going to study medicine, and I was going to go to study dance in New York and become a famous ballerina. Then, he would come to my opening night performances and eventually move to NYC with me. It was all so clear to us. It was all mapped out.I remembered how amazing it was to have met Leo Dancy.He joked about it once.“See, Mia? You love dancing, and now you’ve met a Dancy. It was meant to be, my love.”I smiled now, in spite of the pain.
Oh, Leo, how I miss you. It was supposed to be simple. It was about us.
How I longed to see his face.
Why do I have to do this now? I’m so confused. I’m not sure what to do next or where to go! Goodness, now everyone is quiet. The music has stopped. I don’t think I’m ready for this moment.
Go on, Mia! Do it for Leo! Fine.
“First, I want to say how much I appreciate everyone being here. As you know, I’ve known Leo since we were kids, and we’ve been together since middle school. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done for him, and I know he felt the same about me. However, I’m still having a hard time understanding what’s happening at this moment, and I’m sure you are as well.” Tightness seizes my chest, and I tried to breathe it away. “Wow, this is harder than I could have imagined. Please bear with me.”
I began to hear my voice struggle. I needed help.
“I will now recite a poem I wrote for today.”
I cleared my voice, and then I began to count silently. Biting my bottom lip from the nervousness, I took a deep breath then uttered the words.
“Do not cry for me when you feel alone. I am here with you. Do not cry for me when you think I am gone, for I am the air all around you. Do not cry for me when you get weak, for I will be there to make you strong. Please do not cry for me, for I am in the kingdom of God, and I will always be there to shine a light for you. Just know I love you all.”
All I wanted to do now is hide from everyone. How was I supposed to make this work? I felt lost. Nothing made sense at this moment.
Everyone began to cry. My mind flashed back to the call that changed me forever.
“Mia, this is Matt. Leo has been hurt.”
“No, no, no. This just can’t be.”
I wanted to escape. I feel trapped. I don’t want to say goodbye. “Come on, Mia,” called my mother.
Slowly I took a deep breath, biting my lip. Then I felt myself get dizzy. I’m not sure what happened next. But the next thing I knew I was outside.
“Sweetie, come on now.”
“Mom, what happened?” I looked around me. I’m not in the church anymore. I’m outside, sitting in the grass by the parking lot.
“You passed out in the church.”
I struggled to my feet. “What? No, this can’t be. I have to say goodbye.”
My mom puts a hand on my shoulder. “Honey, I promise you, you will”, she whispered.
“But you just said I passed out!” I blurted.
She grabbed my hand. “Mia, that was just a few minutes ago. No one has left the church yet.”
I nodded, taking time to process her response. “Okay.”
She hands me a bottle of water. “Now, please drink this, Mia.”
I took a small sip. “Okay.” I handed the bottle back to her. “Please take me back to the church.”
She frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure, Mom!” I exclaimed. “Okay, Mia,” said my dad.
We walked back in, using the side entrance. The music was playing. Immediately I recognized the song. It was one of Leo’s favorite hymns. I tried to remain calm.
Then, the bishop spoke. “I want to thank you all for coming today so we can say our final goodbyes to a very wise and strong young man who had such a zest for life and was kind to everyone. I first came across young Leo Dancy when his mother enrolled him in our Sunday religion class when he was only five years old. I could tell he had a love for his faith then, and I knew he was always striving very hard to keep with it as he got older. His presence will be sorely missed.”
Memories of Leo filled my mind. I don’t want to be at the church this morning, where we spent so much time together while he was alive. It’s one of the last places on earth I want to be.
Once the bishop recites the last blessing, we all walked out and prepare to gather at St. Catherine of Siena’s Cemetery.
I can tell my mother and father are concerned about me, so I decide to remain calm—at least for the time being.
Just close your eyes and stay calm.