Memorial service at Temple Church
I arrive at Temple Church off Fleet Street just as the sandwiches and cold meat were being laid out. It's a warm sunny day in London, not a day to rejoice but to mourn the unexpected and sudden death of a loved one.
He was the only son, the only brother, and the only husband. I saw him two years ago at his sister's house warming party. Who would have thought that he would die so young? At age 47, he was at the prime of his life and just beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labour, his two children, his wife, and a flourishing career in the financial world.
I walk into the big church and spot my friend. We greet each other with a brief hug, almost like strangers. Her family is my home from home, including me in their family gatherings at Chinese New Year and other occasions. This tragedy rocks my world as much as theirs, yet I retreat to the third row where I sit alone.
The organ begins fifteen minutes of prelude prior to the memorial service. Elgar's Enigma Variation reaches a crescendo just as I finish reading the one-page write-up about him. I knew him through his sisters and once ran into him at a bank where I was working. Otherwise, I knew very little what he did for a living. And as the music plays on, I realise what an enigma it is, the circumstances surrounding his death.
One thousand questions race through my mind as I watch the sullen, tear-stained faces of his family. How did he die? Where? Was there anyone around? What happened? Why was there no press release? Why was there no obituary? Why doesn't anyone know exactly how he died? Why?
The boys choir echo of angels carrying his spirit to heaven. I sit there trying to block out the distant noise of a baby. It reminds me of the many times I had played on the organ for both memorial and wedding services as a teenager. If babies and whispers bothered me, I'd crank up the volume.
After the service ends, I follow the others outside. I hug the widow and tell her how sorry I am. I don't know what else to say. I have seen them before their marriage, during their honeymoon, and after they became parents. How will she and her children cope now?
I see his elderly mother and father. His father touches his chest and tells me that it's the worst pain he's ever experienced. For the first time, I notice how weak and fragile they are. There will be no closure unless they know and accept exactly how he died and what caused it.
Nearly four years ago, I went to San Antonio, Texas to help a family find the truth surrounding the disappearance of their daughter (my high school friend). I thought I could crack the mystery using my sense of logic and objectivity. We visited the locations where she was last seen. I have learned since then that truth is not obvious or simple. And the lack of closure can have its toll on a family.
28 July 2004 Wednesday
Patty my friend, how could this be your end
Temple Church, Fleet Street, London
Richard Chang, death at Abbey National in London, Bon Journal 5 September 2005