Requiem


When only my mother, Maggie and I were left at the viewing, the funeral director sat down with us to go over some last-minute details about the service the next day. Six minutes into the conversation, it occurred to me he was asking far more than he was explaining.

“Is any of this relevant?” I asked.

“The minister performing the service didn’t know your father personally,” he explained. “These details will help him do the eulogy.”

“I don’t understand. So far, you’ve asked about his favorite sport, food and activity. With a handful of adjectives, the minister could write a few Mad Libs, but that’s not going to tell anyone a fucking thing about the kind of man my father was. Were there no priests available who knew him?”

The ensuing silence made me realize the idiocy of my question. Of course my father had no personal relationship with a member of the clergy—he never went to church. I knew what I needed to do.

“I’ll perform the eulogy.”

My mother reached over and squeezed my hand. “If you feel up to it, I’d like that very much.”

I wanted to tell her that I had no idea if I felt up to it because I’d yet to feel much of anything, but I kept it to myself. She didn’t need to worry about me on top of everything else.

When we got home, I made no immediate attempt to organize my thoughts. I had plenty of time for that; I didn’t delude myself for a moment that I’d be getting any sleep. Instead, I sat at the piano and played a bit of Mozart’s Requiem, hoping the music would bring me clarity. Eulogies were nothing more than secular requiems, and I thought that the latter might serve as my muse for the creation of the former. By the time I’d finished the third movement, it was evident this wasn’t going to work. Though “Lacrimosa” certainly spoke of the loss and fear of the bereaved, it did nothing to celebrate life. The point wasn’t that his life was cut short; the point was that he lived. Fueled by an almost-manic desperation to do this for the man who’d done almost everything for me, I picked up my laptop and spent the next several hours documenting things about my father that I never wanted to forget. Once I approached it like the classic college application essay in which you are asked to describe the person who has been the greatest influence in your life, it came easily.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the front pew of a church being informed by the funeral director that it was time. Once at the podium, I took a deep breath and stared out into the sea of faces before me. Though the majority of those faces belonged to strangers, many were familiar. Some were tear-stained and others stoic, but all were waiting for me to speak. I don’t know why it was so important to me to locate Bella in the crowd—I was required to speak, regardless of her presence. Still, I needed to know she was there. After locating Bella in the last row, I was finally able to begin.

“John Carlisle Cullen IV was many things to many people—a son, a brother, a surgeon, a mentor. Setting and needs dictated the kind of relationships he would form with those in his life, and the relationship he forged with me was no exception. As my father, he was loving, supportive, patient and wise. As my best friend, he was—well—none of those things.

“I’ve spent the past ten hours trying to find the right words to convey to you who my dad was, and all I could come up with is that Carlisle Cullen was that kind of guy. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be with—equal parts jovial and conscientious, he always enjoyed himself, but he never did so at the expense of others. He knew how to live as well as how to love, and somehow despite our non-traditional relationship, taught me to do the same.

“I once overheard a conversation he had with my mother, during which he expressed his concern that he’d failed me. That because he was unable to find anyone my own age with whom I could connect, I was forced to settle for spending time with him. I never got the chance to tell him how wrong he was—that not only was his friendship enough, it was everything, and that even if I’d been presented with an alternative, I would still have chosen him.

“Though I’m still having difficulty believing he’s gone, I believe without question that he wouldn’t want us to mourn him. I leave you with the words of his favorite poet, Virgil:

Do you wish to hang a rose wreath around your tombstone?
Set down the wine and dice. Let him perish, who cares for tomorrow.
Death whispers in your ear, ‘Live,’ says he, ‘For I will come.’

“None of us can choose when our time comes, just how we’d like to spend the time we are given. My father chose to live.”

The rest of the day was a blur. I was aware of what was happening, but it felt more like I was watching than participating. When we returned to the house after the cemetery, those who’d attended the funeral were invited to join us. It felt no different from the viewing, except now I was home and there was an open bar. I stood in the foyer and listened to one quiet condolence after another. Dad’s colleagues told me he’d been a great doctor. His friends told me he’d been a good buddy. Then his attorney told me not to concern myself with anything, that there was no rush and we could meet whenever I was ready.

Once everyone left, my mom, Maggie, and I sat around the kitchen island where Maggie tried unsuccessfully to convince my mom to have a late dinner.

“At the very least, would you pop an Ambien? You haven’t eaten or slept in days. You’re going to end up in the hospital.”

“I can’t do it yet. I’m not ready to sleep in our bed alone. It still smells like him…”

Maggie thought for a moment. “Do you think you can get rid of Carlisle that easily? I mean, do you remember what it was like when you two first met? How you ignored him, insulted him, begged him to leave you alone, and he just wouldn’t?”

My mom nodded.

“Has anything changed since then? I mean, nothing has ever been able to keep Carlisle away from you. Shit, Jack wasn’t able to keep Carlisle away from you. Jack—who claims he’s more powerful than God—tried to separate the two of you and failed. If your love was stronger than Jack, surely it’s stronger than death?”

Wait. What?

“Jack tried to break up you and Dad?”

My mom shrugged. “Something like that.”

My father was dead, my grandfather tried to break up my parents, and my dad’s attorney wanted to meet with me. This had to be some sort of alternate universe; none of this could be really happening.

“I’ll take an Ambien if you stay in my room with me,” my mom said to Maggie.

“Done.”

After my mother swallowed her sleeping pill, I asked her why I would have to meet with Dad’s lawyer.

“To discuss estate stuff,” she said. “He needs to meet with us separately.”

“Why do I have to go at all? I mean, I don’t see how any of it concerns me.”

“Your father and I were adamant that you not grow up the way he did. There were things he felt you didn’t need to know, but it’s no longer possible to conceal them from you. Among them was the extent of his wealth.”

“I don’t understand. Wouldn’t everything just go to you?”

“I don’t want it. Besides, it’s more involved than that.”

My mother yawned, and my aunt coaxed her upstairs to go to sleep. The moment I was alone, I did what I always did when the world around me ceased to make sense—I picked up my phone and called my father. After four rings, he greeted me.

“You’ve reached Carlisle Cullen. I’m unable to take your call right now…”

I slammed my phone down onto the island. This was really happening. Of course Dad was unable to take my call—he’d never be able to take my call again. As my denial began to dissipate, I stormed out of the house, propelled by my need to be with the one person I knew would understand how it felt to be this broken.

The moment Bella answered the door, I fell to my knees in front of her, sobbing.

“Please,” I begged. “Please.”

I had no idea what I was asking, but she seemed to understand. She pulled me into her arms and pressed my face against her breasts.

She kissed the top of my head. “Whatever you need.”

I wanted my father back, but I was willing to settle for the next best thing.

“I need you.”

“You have me.”

She nudged me to my feet and led me inside to a sofa in her living room, gesturing for me to have a seat. I pulled her down beside me and collapsed, crying with my head on her lap. Bella continued to stroke my hair even after I stopped sobbing, her touch oddly calming. When I began to speak, my voice felt detached, as if it wasn’t coming from me.

“About a hundred people came back to the house after the burial. I knew maybe ten of them.”

She sighed. “That amazes me. I’ve never gone to the luncheon after a funeral. I’ve always thought my presence would be an imposition.”

“It was unbelievable. My dad’s lawyer pulled me aside and told me not to feel like I had to meet with him right away, that there was no rush. I couldn’t understand why I had to meet with him at all, or why he felt compelled to accost me at a funeral to inform me of this. After the house emptied out, I asked my mom what it was all about, and she gave me a cryptic explanation that told me absolutely nothing, except that there are a lot of things she needs to tell me.”

“That doesn’t sound like your mom.”

“She hasn’t slept since we found out…well…since. She had to be exhausted, but she refused to sleep by herself in the bed she shared with my dad.”

“You didn’t leave her alone, did you?”

“No. She’s with my Aunt Maggie, who finally convinced her to take an Ambien. When Maggie goes back to Iowa, it will just be the two of us. The house is going to feel so empty.”

“I know.”

“I’m moving home. I can’t leave her alone in the house she shared with my dad—not yet, anyway. I only have classes three days a week; it won’t kill me to commute.”

“I’m so sorry, Edward. If there’s anything I can do…”

“Just…stay with me. Please don’t leave me again.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Now do me a favor and try to rest. You need to be strong for your mother.”

As her thumb stroked my cheek, I closed my eyes for a moment. Though I doubted sleep would come to me, it felt good to relax. The next thing I knew, Bella was kneeling on the floor next to me, dressed for work.

“I wish I’d thought to take today off,” she said. “You can stay if you like, but your car is blocking mine in the driveway. I would have moved it myself, except you’ve never let me drive it and I didn’t want to presume–”

“It’s okay. I should be getting back home anyway.” I sat up, and took in my surroundings. I was obviously at Bella’s house, but nothing was as I remembered it. The walls that formerly had been an austere white were now painted a deep yellow, but that was nearly as shocking as the white sofa on which I was sitting. “When did you buy furniture?”

She laughed. “When I decided I no longer wanted to entertain exclusively in my bedroom.”

As I followed her outside, I remember what she’d said the night before about feeling like she was an imposition. I saw an opportunity to prove to her that she was anything but, while still being there for my mom.

“Would you stop by after work? I know my mother would want to see you.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes, though my motives aren’t selfless. I want to see you, too.”

“Okay. If that’s the case, I’ll be there around three.”

For the first time in nearly two years, I found myself counting the seconds until the end of a school day.


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21 Responses

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  1. on 08 Apr 2010 at 2:59 amIrene

    I was crying all the way through the eulogy, now my boyfriend thinks I am crazy. Thanks for another moving chapter.

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  2. on 08 Apr 2010 at 3:20 am@Rene2608

    He is so brave, You are so amazing, tears are now a standard when reading these chapters. I guess the Jack did not want Esme to have any money…
    I'm in awe as per usual.
    ~Rene

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  3. on 08 Apr 2010 at 3:26 amalicenative

    So beautifully written.

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  4. on 08 Apr 2010 at 3:35 amkatydid13

    Great chapter! I'm interested in hearing about Esme and the Cullens.

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  5. on 08 Apr 2010 at 4:21 amcc cullen

    Another beautiful chapter. Thankfully I had my tissues ready! Thank you.

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  6. on 08 Apr 2010 at 5:06 amlvk1978

    The eulogy was so moving and so Edward — it absolutely blew me away. The depth of feeling for his father is almost a living, breathing being.

    Thanks so much for another brilliant chapter.

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  7. on 08 Apr 2010 at 5:22 amAzucena

    I am with Irene, although after reading the Sweet Prince, this chapter is a tender one. Thanks for writing.

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  8. on 08 Apr 2010 at 6:05 amTippyL

    I have no words. Just beautiful.

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  9. on 08 Apr 2010 at 11:49 amfanficcer

    Amazing. Although I felt a sense of closure after this chapter rather than extreme sorrow like I felt after reading Esme's Sweet Prince outtake. It is also perfect that you focused so much about Edward and his father rather than focus on Edward and Bella. A realistic POV rather than a fairy tale snags my heart every time.

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  10. on 08 Apr 2010 at 4:20 pmMojito Maven

    Beautifully written. Edward truly is his father's son. You have my interest piqued about the Jack and Esme situation.

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  11. on 08 Apr 2010 at 1:40 pmmichswan

    I think it hurt the most when he picked up the phone to call his dad… :(
    I can't wait to read about Esme and the Cullens.

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  12. on 09 Apr 2010 at 12:38 amJess W

    I had to read some of the eulogy to my husband and he, too, thinks I'm a little bit nuts. But it's so worth it! Thanks for the story.

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  13. on 09 Apr 2010 at 12:38 amJess W

    I had to read some of the eulogy to my husband and he, too, thinks I'm a little bit nuts. But it's so worth it! Thanks for the story.

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  14. on 09 Apr 2010 at 2:15 amElizabeth440

    You did such an interesting thing with Esme in this chapter – you demonstrated that even those with superior insight and understanding into human behavior still can be incapable of recognizing such simple yet fundamental truths. Her sister pointing out to her that she couldn't escape Carlisle's love was the most moving aspect in a chapter replete with poignancy.

    I also liked how Edward acknowledged the literal change in Bella when he realized that she had decorated her house. Life as a house – you're just such an incredibly gifted writer.

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  15. on 09 Apr 2010 at 1:01 pmcharlotte dwyer

    wonderfully sad and yet there is hope for the future. Can not wait for the next chapter.

    charlotte

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  16. on 29 May 2010 at 2:41 pmAitza Danielle

    I cried like a baby when Edward picked up the phone to call his dad. You’ve done a beautiful job with all this; it’s very realistic. I can recall the days of picking up the phone and desperately wanting to talk to my grandmother. I want to know more about Esme and Jack

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  17. on 27 Nov 2010 at 2:55 pmJulie

    I’m still bawling like a baby. So many things made this more heartwrenching than any of the other chapters: The eulogy, him calling his dad, his mother’s grief. This must’ve been so painful to write.

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  18. on 15 Dec 2010 at 10:00 pmNKubie

    This chapter was especially touching to me as my father recently passed away and I spoke at his memorial service. Oddly, my eulogy was mostly about how he had chosen to adopt me and if it had been my choice I would have chosen him too. Strange how art imitates life and vice versa.

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  19. on 02 Jan 2011 at 4:59 pmFancastride

    Edwards words were so moving. Can’t wait to find out about Jack and why he did not want Carlisle and Esme together.

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  20. on 11 Jan 2011 at 9:18 amSea4Me

    Beautifully done. Esme’s need, call to Carlisle, leaning on Bella, old family money drama. I hope E gets the full import of Bs sense of imposing. It really speaks to her belief of being worthless/unworthy. He needs to know how deep that is so he can see that she always judged herself, not him. But, that can wait til he’s ready!

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  21. on 23 Jan 2013 at 9:03 pmsandra

    i am so glad i discovery this site i had already read the fanfriction story.but these chapters they have blow me away love it bella and edward so damn sexy kate not so much!

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