The minutiae of a funeral are small mercies that family can get lost in after a death: AV feeds and pall-bearer weight balancing and choosing which direction the casket will enter the room. Inside the Aurora Centre at Burnside High School, Jaime Gilbert’s brother Pete stands on stage discussing audio gain with a member of the venue’s tech crew.
The coffin will enter from the East to avoid directly encountering the media who will invariably congregate for photo and video opportunities at the West entrance. My Dad, the MC, will stay on stage the duration of the service to avoid disrupting the audience by walking back and forth, on and off. The background of the slide-show will be dark green with white font to ensure reader legibility. Mindless details, but they give everybody something to focus on.
Jaime will be placed in the centre of the stage. “It’s where he wanted to be, right?” says Pete. Videos will be projected on the back wall.
His Dad, a drama teacher, looks so much like him that I can’t help but say something when he introduces himself. I immediately regret it. But he just smiles and shrugs. It won’t be the last time he hears it this week.
His stepmother can’t hold back tears. “We were supposed to see him on stage here, in Hamlet,” she says. It sets off the Aurora Centre assistant, who begins to cry.
The details of Jaime’s death have been widely publicised. His sister, Amy, was working alongside him at the Iconic Bar when the quake hit. A cameraman captured her running out the door with blood streaming down her face – it was one of the first pieces of video footage broadcast around the world. “We’ve become poster children of the earthquake,” says Pete.
The funeral will begin at 10:30 tomorrow morning, and it will last most of the day. Hundreds of people are expected to attend the service. I honestly cannot believe how together the family is right now, but tomorrow will be the hardest day. Everything that’s been suppressed will come pouring out, and then the reality will set in.
It’s a scenario that will be replicated again and again throughout the city in the coming weeks.
I feel stupid even writing this, but I forgot to bring appropriate clothes for a funeral. Small details, but they do help to divert one’s attention from the matter at hand. At a time like this, every distraction helps.