On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.
I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old. The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection. The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.
I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.
There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands. I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.
The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.
My father’s obituary reads:
Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.
It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.
A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.
It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives. These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.
He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967. He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.
It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.
A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.
It does not tell you of all he saw in the war. It does not tell you that he saw babies die. Women. Men. Old. Young. All dead. All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.
Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply. They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers. They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with. The world became a far more serious and somber place.
Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.
It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.
It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.
It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.
It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died. It does not tell you I wasn’t there. That my presence was never even up for discussion.
Bray. Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.
This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic. It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.
I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary. I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information. The facts. That’s what an obituary is. Truly, just the most basic of facts. There is no color, no emotion, no compassion. Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.
The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.