Saying Good-Bye To Tyler
“Mom?” Sam Landon sat in the yard behind his house. He tossed a baseball high into the air and tried to grasp it with his catcher’s mitt.
A few feet away, his mom picked up a water can and sprinkled her plants.
The ball fell into Mrs. Landon’s yellow rose bushes.
“Sam! What’s has gotten into you?” She put down the can and threw the ball back. Then she picked some flowers and put them in a basket.
His mom did not notice that Sam had let the ball fall without even trying to catch it.
“Something bad happened.” He looked down at the ground.
“What happened?” Mrs. Landon took off her baseball cap, and pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket. She wiped her forehead. Then she picked up a tall glass from a small table and took a long drink.
She turned to him. “Who died?”
“A kid on my soccer team. He was also in my Boy Scout troop.”
“What’s his name?”
“Oh, how sad. He was such a good kid.” She picked up a pitcher and poured some ice tea into another glass and brought it over to Sam. She bent down and held the drink out to him.
He looked up at her. “I don’t want any. It tastes yucky.”
“It’s like 110 degrees out here. You’ve got to drink something.”
He did feel hot in the July Arizona sun. He took a tiny sip and his mouth twisted from the lemon taste.
Mrs. Landon sat on the grass next to him. “What happened?”
“He died when his A.T.V. fell on him.”
“Ummm. How did you find out?”
“I was checking out the soccer camp practice times on the Internet and it said that he died.”
“What a terrible accident. Did it say when and where the funeral is?”
“I don’t remember.” Sam did know when and where the funeral was, but he hoped that his mom would not want to take him. He was freaked out about his friend’s death. This was the first dead kid that he ever knew. Sam felt sad and his stomach was upset. Again Sam looked down, hoping that his mom wouldn’t see the tears forming in his eyes.
“Look at me, Sam.”
He looked at his mom.
“It’s okay to cry. Tyler’s death was unexpected. Being sad and frightened is normal,” Mrs. Landon said. “I’m going to find out about the funeral on the website.
“I’ll just be a sec.” Sam’s mom headed toward the sliding glass door.
“Wait! The funeral is tomorrow at 10:00 AM in the Harrison’s Funeral Home. The cemetery is in
“Are you are afraid to go, Sam? Since I’ve never taken you to funeral, you are probably a little scared. But, we don’t have to go.”
“We don’t?” Sam's stomach felt much better.
“But it would be the only time that we could say good-bye to Tyler. Let’s go inside. We’ve been out here long enough.” She headed toward the sliding door and pushed it open.
Sam followed her into the kitchen and shut the door.
“Sit down,” Mrs. Landon said.
He sat down at the kitchen table.
His mom opened the refrigerator, took out two bottles of water, and then sat across from him.
“Do you have any questions about Tyler?” She pulled off the bottle cap and gulped down some water.
He thought for a minute. “What happened to him after he died?”
She put down the bottle of water. “Well, his body stopped working.”
Again, Sam’s stomach felt funny like it did after eating too much popcorn. “Am I going to die, too?”
“Someday, all of us will die. But, not now. Just because Tyler died, doesn’t mean that you will.
Sam thought about the funeral. Will it be scary? There might be some monsters or ghosts that could come out and take me away like they did to Tyler. Saying good-bye to his friend did not seem like a very good idea.
“Who will be there?” He opened his bottle of water and took a long drink. He did not realize how thirsty he was.
Sam’s mom moved over to the chair next to him. "There will be lots of people there. His friends from the Boy Scouts and the soccer team, Coach Ryan, teachers, and some of your classmates will come.
“What will we do there?” He had seen funerals on T.V., but he did not really know what people did at them.
“At the funeral home we will sign our names in the guest book. Then we will join the other people in a private room. If the casket is open we can see the body. There will be lots of flowers and pictures of your friend when he was a baby, growing up, and playing soccer.”
“What’s a guest book?
Mrs. Landon said, “Since this is such a sad day, Tyler’s family might not remember who came to the funeral. After the day is over, they will look at this book. Some family members might send thank-you notes to everyone.”
“Why are you calling Tyler “the body”? Isn’t he still Tyler?”
Mrs. Landon drank some more water and wriggled around in her chair. “When a person dies, the body is all that is left. But, our memories of Tyler will live on inside of our hearts.”
“Will Tyler’s casket look like ones that Dracula and Vampires sleep in?” He remembered that in the movies those caskets were big and black.
She said, “This casket will probably be smaller and made of steel or wood. And he will not alive any more like we are.”
“Where is Tyler now?” Sam wished that he did not ask this question. But he could not help himself. He had to know.
“Well," Mrs. Landon said. "He’s at a funeral home.”
“A home? Like in his house?” That seemed real silly, unless Tyler’s family thought that he might turn into a friendly ghost. That way Tyler could come home and not be in a box. Then, maybe he could eat over at Sam’s house just like before he died.
“No. It’s not that kind of home. After the accident, Tyler was brought to a hospital so that the doctors could see how badly he was hurt. And then when his heart stopped beating, he was taken to the funeral home.”
“What for?” All of this stuff about funerals made him tired. He wanted to take a nap, but he was not a baby. Everyone knew that only babies take naps.
When his mom put her arms around him, he rested his head against her neck.
She made him feel better.
Sam said, “Mom, after they took Tyler to the funeral home, what happened next?”
“The assistants cleaned the body, and then dressed Tyler in his soccer or Boy Scout uniform. Maybe they put some make-up on him.”
He giggled. “Tyler would look silly in make-up.” He pulled away from his mom and looked up at her. “Can we look inside the casket and see Tyler?”
“If his family will decide if they want the guests to see him. Sometimes it may be too upsetting for his family and they may want it closed.”
“After we say good-bye, then can we go home?”
“We can go home anytime you want but it’s not over yet. There will be a prayer service and someone from his family will get up in front of everyone to say the eulogy.”
Sam had heard the word “eulogy” before. He knew that someone from Tyler’s family would tell everyone nice things about him. “And then is it over?”
“Well, not quite. We can go to the cemetery where he will be buried.”
Sam remembered that on Halloween some people put fake headstones on their front lawns, but he knew that there were not any people buried there.
His mom said, “You don't have to decide about going to the funeral now. Tell me before bedtime if you want to go. I have to pick out the clothes that we are going to wear. Do you have any more questions?”
Sam shook his head.
“Now, it’s time for lunch.” Mrs. Landon got up and went to the refrigerator. She opened the door and said, "Do you want Mac and cheese or a turkey sandwich?"
Sam didn’t feel very hungry. Still, he worried about going to the funeral.
* * *
At bedtime, Sam got into his PJ's and played with his Game Boy.
Mrs. Landon came inside Sam's room. “Well, what did you decide?”
“I can handle it, mom.” If the casket was open, he was afraid to Tyler in the box. But in December, he was going to be 13, almost a grown-up. Sam did not want act like a little kid anymore.
“Okay.” She went to the closet and took out a navy blue tee shirt and a good pair of Sam’s black slacks. She put them on a chair. “And wear your black athletic shoes.”
Sam knew that people wore dark clothes to funerals.
“Good-night,” his mom said. “And no more Game Boy. We are going to have a long day tomorrow and you will need your sleep.”
“Okay. Good night, Mom.”
* * *
The next morning, Sam’s mom came into his room. She opened the curtains. “Rise and shine, young man.”
He turned away from the blaring sun and covered his head with a pillow. This morning, Tyler did not want to go to the funeral, but his mom did not like it when he changed his mind. ‘When you decide to do something, you should not back out,’ she often said.
Mrs. Landon pulled the pillow off of his face.
Sam and opened his eyes and turned away to avoid the harsh light.
“Wash up and get dressed. Hurry up. Your breakfast is ready.” Mrs. Landon left the room.
Sam had nightmares. He saw Tyler was in a box. Then his friend grew huge black wings and flew away. Sam wanted to tell his mom about the dreams, but didn’t want her to think that he was a baby.
He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and washed his face. Back in his room, he dressed in the clothes that his mom put out for him. He did not forget to put on his black athletic shoes.
From his bedroom he smelled the sweet aroma of his favorite breakfast of buttery, chocolate chip pancakes. Sam’s mom made him this breakfast only on special days; like his birthday. He wasn’t very hungry, but did not want to disappoint her.
He headed out of the room and went into the kitchen. Sam sat down at his usual seat at the table. His plate had two large pancakes on it. He picked up the glass of orange juice and gulped it down. Sam was thirsty from all of the nightmares.
His mom sat opposite him and drank a large cup of coffee.
The chocolaty coffee aroma comforted Sam. It seemed like a normal morning, but it was not. He took a few bites of the pancakes, but could not eat anymore.
“Eat an apple,” Mrs. Landon said. “You will need lots of energy today.
Sam was glad that his mom was not pushing him to eat all of his breakfast. But an apple sounded okay. He picked up the red, shiny, piece of fruit from a basket on the table.
While he made crunching noises, his mom scraped off the plates and put them in the dishwasher.
Now, it was time to go.
Even though the air conditioning cooled the house, Sam broke out into a sweat and felt clammy. He took in shallow breaths and his face turned a pea green.
His mom grabbed her keys and handbag from the kitchen counter. She looked at her son. “Are you sure that you want to go?” Opening the refrigerator, she took out two bottles of water. She handed him one. “Take in deep breathes and let them out slowly. You'll feel better.”
He did what she said and stopped sweating. “I’m okay, mom.” He followed her out of the kitchen and into the front hallway. Sam opened the front door and went toward the SUV that sat in the driveway.
After locking the door to the house, Mrs. Landon hit a button on her key ring. The car burped.
On any other day, Sam would have made a fake burping sound, but today he did not feel like it.
He looked across the street and saw another family leaving their house. The boy named Kyle was on Sam and Tyler's soccer team. He was dressed up in nice clothes just like Sam’s.
Before Kyle got into his parents’ car, he waved to Sam.
Since his teammate was dressed up in clothes like his, he hoped that Kyle would be at the funeral.
After getting in the car, Sam and his mom put on their seat belts. She turned on the engine and backed out of the driveway.
* * *
When they arrived at the funeral home, there were many cars in the parking lot.
With so many people getting out of their cars, to Sam it looked there was party going on inside. But everyone looked sad and freaky in dark clothing. Most of the men wore suits like they were at a wedding.
People talked quietly and he didn’t hear anyone laughing.
He followed his mom inside the large house.
In the hallway, people stood in line to write their names in the guest book.
Sam saw some things that put a smile on his face. It looked just like the inside of a McDonald’s Play Place. Cool!
“Mom, look at that!” He pointed to the collection of stuffed animals that sat on chairs, the carpet, and tables.
“Lower your voice,” his mother whispered. “I have never seen those in a funeral home before.”
Coach Ryan came up to them. “Mrs. Landon, how are you?”
“Such a sad day,” she said.
“Especially the death of a such a young child.” The coach turned to Sam. “We’ll miss him on the team, won’t we?”
After signing the guest book, Sam, his mom, and the coach went inside a large room.
Sam saw people sitting on red velvet chairs. Others stood in small groups and talked in low voices. Many of the
grown-ups dabbed their eyes with tissues or handkerchiefs.
Sam smelled flowers like in his mom's garden. He saw many wreaths surrounding a casket.
A few boys from Sam and Tyler's soccer team came up to them.
“Hi, Sam,” Kyle said. “Did your mom make you come here?”
“No. I wanted to say good-bye to Tyler.”
“The casket is open. Let’s look inside,” Jeremy said. He grabbed Sam’s arm and pulled him closer to the pine box.
Sam’s mom said, “Jeremy, let go of his arm. Sam, you don’t have to see Tyler if you don’t want to.”
Jeremy dropped Sam’s arm. “Sorry Mrs. Landon.”
“It’s okay, Mom. You said that we should say good-bye.”
He looked into the box. His friend looked like he was sleeping. Tyler wore his Boy Scout uniform, not the soccer outfit.
Inside the casket there was a Game Boy, Tyler's favorite Harry Potter book. Boy Scout merit badges were pinned to his uniform.
Sam’s mouth felt dry.
“Here, drink this.” Mrs. Landon handed him a bottle of water. “Let’s sit down.”
But Sam could not stop staring at Tyler. His friend’s face was so still. And his skin did look funny with all of that make-up on. Now, he was not laughing like he did yesterday when his mom told him about the make-up.
Mrs. Landon took Sam’s arm and led him away from the casket. They sat at the end of the second row. Kyle and Jeremy sat next to them.
"Creepy,” Jeremy said.
Kyle said, “He looks like he’s all made up for Halloween.”
Some grow-ups came up close to Tyler’s casket.
To Sam, it sounded like they were saying prayers.
“Sam, are you okay? Do you want to leave?” His mom asked.
He took in some deep breaths and let them out slowly. Then Sam looked at his friends. He did not want to seem like a wimp in front of them. “We can stay.”
Mrs. Landon said, “Sam, Tyler’s parents are in the room next door. I’m going to give them my condolences. Will you be okay here?”
“Yeah. I’ll be here with the guys.” He was not afraid to be in the room with a dead kid because his friends were nearby.
Coach Ryan came over to the boys. “How are you guys holding up?”
“Hey coach,” Sam said.
Kyle said, “Hi.”
The coach sat beside Kyle.
Sam heard someone moaning and crying. He followed the sound and watched as Tyler’s mom, dad, and older sister Meagan enter the room.
Mrs. Landon followed Tyler’s family. She sat next to Coach Ryan.
The family looked like they had aged twenty years. Tyler’s mom, wearing a black dress, was hunched over. His dad had an arm around his wife, and seemed to be holding her up.
The family sat in the front row.
“Ladies, gentlemen, and friends. May I have your attention, please? A man wearing a dark suit and tie stood at a podium in front of Tyler’s casket.
“My name is Walter Harrison. I am the owner of this establishment. We are here to honor the life of young Tyler David Reid. His family would like to thank everyone for their support, prayers, and love during this sad time.
The Reids welcome you to join the funeral procession to the Garden of Grace Cemetery in Catori Canyon. And now, Tyler’s sister Meagan would like to say a few words on behalf of her family.”
As Meagan stood up and headed toward the front of the room, she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. Her green eyes had shadows under them. The young woman's usually shiny, long chestnut hair seemed dry and limp.
She cleared her throat and then looked down at the wrinkled piece of paper she held in her trembling hands. “My family would like to thank everyone for coming today. We are shocked and devastated about my brother’s death.”
Sam wriggled in his seat. He was tired of sitting and did not want to listen to Meagan talk about Tyler. He was upset about never playing soccer again with his friend. Sam wondered if Tyler could hear what Meagan was saying about him. He expected to see his friend pop out of the casket and say, “I’m not dead. I’m right here!”
Meagan continued, “Even though he was only 12 years old, Tyler lived a life filled with delight, wonder, and excitement. He loved going places, making new friends, and learning to do things. His favorite subject in school was science. He liked to read my high school astronomy textbooks and find constellations in the sky. Even when the other kids played outside, Tyler liked to come to the bookstore with me. He played soccer and camped out, too. Like most little brothers, he played jokes on me. One time when we camped out at Lake Powell he put a frog in my sleeping bag. I wasn’t laughing then, but now, I would do anything to have him here to play more tricks on me.”
Mrs. Landon looked at Jeremy and shook her head.
“Last night I looked through some photo albums with Mom and Dad,” Meagan said. She turned to a large a large bulletin board covered with pictures of Tyler. “I’m sure that my brother would be real embarrassed about those baby pictures." She grinned. "Again, thanks for coming to say good-bye to my little brother.” Quickly, the young woman left the podium and sat next to her mom and dad.
The Reids got up and gathered around Tyler’s casket.
Sam listened as his friend's mom and dad talked quietly. He wondered if Tyler could hear them.
People stood up and shook hands. Then they exited the room.
“Mrs. Landon, do you a ride to the cemetery?” Coach Ryan said.
Mrs. Landon said, “Thanks for your offer Coach Ryan, but I drove here.”
“Then I’ll see you there,” the coach said.
She looked at Sam. “Do you want to call it a day?”
Tyler looked at his friends. “Are you guys going?”
Jeremy said, “Yeah, I’m going with my dad.”
“My mom is taking me,” Kyle said.
“Yeah. I’ll go, Mom.”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded. There’s nothing scary about cemeteries in the daytime. But I wouldn’t want to go there at night.
Sam and his mom followed everyone out of the funeral home and got into their car. He watched as a long line of cars with their lights on move slowly out of the parking lot and down the street. The cars followed the hearse with Tyler’s body inside. He knew that this parade of cars was called a funeral procession.
“Don’t forget to put on your seatbelt.” Mrs. Landon waited her turn to drive out of the parking lot. “We don’t have to go to the cemetery just because your friends are.”
“I’m not afraid. I’ve seen cemeteries lots of times on T.V.” Sam was tired, but he knew that after the cemetery they would go home.
On the 50 minute drive they passed small towns, houses, and farms.
Then they reached a large piece of land.
Mrs. Landon drove the car through huge black iron gate. She parked in the crowded lot.
Sam saw many tall gravestones lined up in rows across the area. Some had plants and flowers beside them.
A house stood nearby.
“Is that a another funeral home? Sam asked.
They unlocked their seat belts and exited the car.
“No. Tyler’s family came to this building to make the burial arrangements.”
Mrs. Landon waited for Sam and they walked toward the grassy areas filled with flat and upright monuments.
“The Reids met with the people that work here to pick out a place to bury Tyler. They might have hired a minister to say some prayers.”
She stopped in front of a large, shiny, carved monument. “See those words carved in the stone?”
“What’s written on it?”
Sam bent down and took a closer look. “It says, ‘Mary Anne Benson 1945-2008. For our sweet Mary, wonderful mom, sister, wife, and friend. You will live on forever in our hearts.’”
Mrs. Landon said, “Mary was born in 1945 and died in 2008. Her family decided to add the words underneath those dates as a tribute to her.”
“What about those drawings? They look like angels.”
“Some families decide to have pictures of their loved one and special designs engraved on the stone.”
“Let’s go. I see people from the funeral at the gravesite.”
Sam and his mom continued along a paved road toward a group of people gathered around a large hole in the ground. Dirt was piled up next to the empty opening.
Coach Ryan, Jeremy, and Kyle’s faces looked sad.
The crowd was quiet.
Sam noticed that Tyler’s casket sat on a table with wheels. The box was closed. The funeral home was really the last time that everyone could say good-bye to Tyler.
He watched as a woman moved from the middle of the group to the front of the mourners.
"My name Reverend Rebecca. The Reid family has asked me to lead everyone in a final prayer for Tyler. This selection is from the Old Testament and is a favorite of Mrs. Reid's. Please join in, if you know the words."
"To everything there is a season,
A time for everything under the sun
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to laugh and a time to cry
A time to dance and a time to mourn
A time to seek and a time to let go.
This is the time we remember
One who gave meaning to our lives.
This is the time we remember the bonds that tied us together,
The love that we shared,
And the memories that remain with us still."
Sam had heard this prayer before, but did not remember the words. He listened as his mom and the others joined Reverend Rebecca in prayer.
"Now, I would like everyone to hold hands," the reverend continued. "Even if you don't know the person next to you, join hands so that we can create a circle filled with love and comfort for the Reid family. Let's bow our heads and have a moment of silence in Tyler's honor. Let us pray."
Sam grabbed his mom's hand.
The mourners reached out to hold hands. Then they closed their eyes. Everyone was quiet.
Sam bowed his head and shut his eyes. He listened to the birds tweeting. A slight wind ruffled his hair.
When the reverend said, "The Reids would like to thank everyone for their coming today," Sam opened his eyes. He watched as the reverend went over to Mrs. Reid and hugged her.
Other people embraced Tyler's mom, dad, and sister Meagen.
Then Meagan passed by the other gravesides and headed toward a car that sat on the paved road. She opened the car door and pulled out a bunch of red, blue, yellow, white, and green balloons.
"Mom, what are those for?" Sam asked. "This isn't a party." He liked the colorful balloons. They reminded him of the happy times he spent at the carnival and the circus.
Mrs. Landon said, "You'll see."
When Meagan reached the mourners she gave everyone a balloon.
Sam got a red balloon; his favorite color.
Holding a green balloon the young woman looked up at the bright cornflower blue sky. Everyone else did too.
Tyler, me, and the team should be playing soccer today. Sam did not understand why his friend had to die and then wind up being buried in a box and put into the ground.
Meagan let go of the string and said, "Tyler, I miss you so much already. I will never forget you."
The mourners let go of their balloons, too.
Sam watched as a sea of colors floated up to the sky. He opened his hand and released his balloon.
Cool! Maybe Tyler is looking down at us now. But he would probably say that he was too grown up for balloons.
"Ready to go," Mrs. Landon said.
"Yeah. I just want to say good-bye to the guys." Sam went over to Kyle and Jeremy.
"Hey, Jeremy said. "It's going to be way weird not seeing Tyler in school."
"Or at soccer practice," Kyle said.
Sam nodded. "We have to win the next game against Shady Hill for Tyler."
The coach joined the boys. "Next Saturday we will have a special ceremony just for Tyler."
"Cool," Sam said.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Marilyn Janson.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/15/2012.