The day my mother died, everything changed. My mind became a complex mess of the heartbreaking reality of her death and delusions that I’d wake up and it would all have been a bad dream. My mother’s funeral and showing were a blur. I remember very little from the days immediately following her passing. I was numb. I was heartbroken. I was exhausted and confused and shocked and devastated. 

I was motherless

Even looking back on those days, very little fills my memory. I don’t remember what we buried her in. I don’t remember the eulogy I delivered or the obituary I wrote to honor her greatness. Burying my mother is the event I’d like to forget most, besides the day she died. Both of those events shattered my spirit and left me with pieces of my soul exposed and broken.

But even through the heartbreak, there is a moment I will never forget. Standing at my mother’s funeral, I got a priceless lesson on friendship and people who show up when you need them. I’ll never forget the beautiful soul who showed up decades after she’d last seen my mom and offered the most breathtaking comfort I’ve ever received. She showed up and simply said, “I heard and I came because I know what it’s like to be the first one at the casket.” 

Speechless. Numb. Honored. Humbled and heartbroken. All the emotions I suddenly felt. 

The first one at the casket. It was true. I hadn’t thought of it. It was both an awakening and a humble reminder of the honored spot I was standing in.

I learned two things in that moment:

1. It is an honor to have that spot at the casket. It means I was blessed with great love and was loved greatly in return. It means someone special has left my world, but it’s also a great reminder that my world was filled with someone special. Before hearing those words, all I saw and felt was pain. I didn’t see the beauty and significance of the spot I was standing in.

2. I will always acknowledge the first ones at the casket and the intense pain of filling that spot. I will show up for the funerals of my peers’ parents, even if I haven’t seen them in decades. I will show up for those funerals because having someone acknowledge my hurt, my grief, and my brokenness was life-changing. 

Perspective is such an amazing gift. I never thought I’d be getting a lesson on love, loss, and never-ending support at my mother’s funeral. I never imagined an old friend would show up and teach me about the community of the hurting. The community of the ones like me, the ones who have lost parents and pieces of their hearts. 

It’s as if there is some sort of club for the grieving. A group solidified on the foundation of pain and loss. A group filled with humble hearts that show up for each other, no matter how long it’s been, no matter what. It’s a club and a group no one wants to join. A group that unites us with others who are broken, too. A group that works simultaneously to heal others while also working diligently to heal ourselves. A group filled with hearts that are broken and hurting, but also the kindest and gentlest hearts I’ve ever encountered. A group built upon love lost, but not forgotten. 

I will never forget the moment I unexpectedly became part of the “First Ones at the Casket” club and I will never forget the amazing woman who showed up and taught me the importance and significance of holding that spot.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Wife, mother, and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is married to the love of her life, Justin. She’s the mother to three beautiful and spunky children. She has a deep love of teaching and has always enjoyed helping inspire students. She is a Ball State graduate but an Indiana University Hoosier at heart. Chelsea’s mother always encouraged her to write. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. She decided to honor her mother's wishes and write. It was one of the best decisions she's ever made.

Instagram Handle: chelsohlemiller