At the arrangement conference I discovered that the deceased woman was 50 years old, her next of kin were her two half brothers, her mother had died years ago and her birth father had deserted the family after she was born. The man who was her father as she was growing up had never adopted her and abuse was inferred; it's possible that he and her mother were never married, I'm not sure. She had never herself married...and...though 50 years old she was still a child. She was born handicapped and she was never able to grasp anything past 5 years. When I saw her she even looked like a child; certainly not a 50 year old woman. I was told by her brothers that they'd often heard that when she had been "diagnosed" the family had been told that her life expectancy was maybe 20 years. OK, here's where it starts. Reading this you might think the way I did at first. Oh, poor woman, what a life she must have led, what a shame, this must have been tough on the family all these years, why do things like this happen, poor soul.
Prior to the memorial service the family brought several things to the funeral home which they wanted me to display at the service that night. Among some of the things was a poster made by the school she attended which showed pictures of her during different functions, a tangled mess of maybe 15 or so award ribbons where she had participated in special Olympics, a photo portrait of her and our magnetic board filled with photos of her from the time she was a few years old until today. As a child it was obvious that something just wasn't right however, the first thing I noticed in all of the photos that weren't of her alone was that she always seemed to have at least one pair of arms around her and she was always hugging someone and smiling; not the posed smile of someone waiting for a camera to take their picture, a smile of happiness; contentment. Now I know that she couldn't possibly have been happy every moment of her life and that most pictures would have been taken at times of happiness but she was after all nicknamed "giggles". Happiness had to be a common factor somewhere in here.
As I said earlier, some people might feel as I did; poor thing, never had a life. But think about it. While true she never had the chance to grow up and be a teenager, a wife, a mother, she never had the chance to experience about 90% of what a person of 50 years of age does, but she had been happy, spontaneous and loved; almost enviable. But...of course during her life she could feel pain, she could fear and at times probably felt despair. I'll never know what her life was really like. We've all heard "Ignorance is bliss", but was she really ignorant of the pain in life...I'm not sure anyone knows this.
The people that came to her memorial service were mostly friends of her family however there were very many of her friends as well. Her "boyfriend" was there and I got to meet him. He was going to miss her dearly, I could see that. He called himself her boyfriend and they used to walk hand in hand everywhere; she used to call him her sweet pea. He told me that they were best friends and he had known her all his life which I later found out was really only the last 15 years of his life. But 15 years is a long time. He sobbed and held his head down during the entire service. After the service was over, everyone was milling around visiting when he came over to me to show me the picture book that used to be his girlfriends. The family had given it to him and it was obvious he was going to treasure it. You know, I felt more sorrow for him than I did for any of the others at the service that night. To most he was her boyfriend, but still somewhat insignificant. I couldn't help but feel that his losing his giggles was going to be have a tremendous impact on him. He's probably poreing over that book as I write this and as you read this. No matter what the family wanted, this turned out to be anything but a "simple" memorial service and she was far from simple no matter what any outsider might have thought.