WHY I HATE JANUARY - Part 2: Flowers
Shane's parents knew we were not just bandmates, we were best friends...and they entrusted me with a number of important responsibilities and decisions regarding the funeral procedures. They admittedly knew next to nothing about who his friends were or who should be notified about his death.
They asked me if I would take charge of this, and I did. I spent the better part of a day on the phone, calling people we knew who might not have heard through the grapevine. Social media did not yet exist and the band did not even have an email address (remember this was 1996). So I made phone calls.
I called Peter Steele from Type O Negative early on, and he was devastated. He offered to fly out. "Anything you need. Just tell me." I told him - as I would tell everyone else in distant places - that flying in for the funeral was unnecessary. Just send flowers. I wanted his parents, and perhaps the local residents of our homebase Kenosha, Wisconsin - to understand how many lives he had touched. How much he was appreciated, respected, and even adored by people well beyond the boundaries of a town that had - for the most part - bullied and belittled him his whole life.
Peter would later dedicate Type O Negative's groundbreaking sonic opus "October Rust" to Shane. I can't imagine a greater honor or more fitting tribute.
Just send flowers. The day of the viewing at the funeral home, flowers poured in from around the country. The place had two chapels for those rare occasions when two wakes were held simultaneously. They had to open the second chapel to accommodate all the flowers.
I was asked to choose music to be played during the visitation. Easy right? Not so much. Blasting the keyboard solo from "Black Bus" sounds cool in theory...but despite it being a manifestation of what he did and who he was, EHC's music didn't seem appropriate for this sad and solemn occasion. Classical? Ambient Electronic? No. These weren't him. Then I remembered: every time we went to a biker bar called Sarah's, Shane put a dollar in the jukebox and played "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (the original). Clocking in at just over 17 minutes, it gave you the most bang for your buck - monopolizing the jukebox for the bulk of the time we would spend sampling Sarah's superlative selection of imported top-shelf tequilas (a decade before hipsters became agave snobs and Mezcal connoisseurs) - and epitomized the doomy dark side of flower power that so inspired us. Iron Butterfly it would be.
The visitation or wake or viewing or whatever it's technically called was nothing less than surreal. The building was overflowing with spectacular flower arrangements while psychedelic rock songs about the Garden of Eden seeped from overhead speakers. Band members wore stage clothes. This was, in effect, our last show together. I wore lace-up leather pants with a black turtleneck and a black Baphomet medallion. I had been growing my hair out, but decided to shave my head for this occasion.
Shane's parents had suggested we meet an hour before the doors opened to the public to both pay our respects privately and decide as a group whether or not the casket would be open or closed. I had already voted closed prior to seeing Shane embalmed. I never liked the idea that your last impression of someone's face be as a corpse.
We each went up to say goodbye individually ...and when I saw him, all I could see was the trauma of the accident. His jawline was wrong. Despite valiant attempts by a skilled mortician to reconstruct his facial features, it looked awful to a guy who saw him every day. But I was probably looking for that. My first real job (at 16) was as a handyman at a funeral home and I knew details not everyone knows. I could see where his eyelids and lips were pulled together - whether by stitches or pins or hooks (I've had people in the trade argue that "it's not done that way anymore" but I could see it) - and it cast a macabre pall over what was supposed to be a peaceful expression of repose. I voted no again but was outvoted and conceded rather than argue.
Shane's parents quietly asked me to remove my Baphomet medallion - if I didn't mind - and I tucked it in out of respect. It was, to me, a rather bizarre request as on one side of the casket was a traditional wreath of flowers on a tripod from the family while on the opposite side of the dais stood another wreath of equal size, but in the shape of a pentagram, comprised entirely of multi-colored daisies, from the band. His other family.
Maybe, without the Goat of Mendes emblazoned across the inverted star, it was easier to dismiss it as a symbol the band just happened to use. Whatever the case, there was no mistaking the fact that the late Rev. Dr. Luv was sharing the stage in death - just as he did in life - with the Sign of Satan.
I stood in the entrance hall greeting people while the family stood near the casket in the chapel, shaking hands with and hugging those who offered their condolences.
It was a strange mixture of people at the funeral home that night: a liberal sprinkling goths and rivetheads from Chicago, friends and fans from surrounding states, bartenders, bar owners, bar patrons, former employers, co-workers from the Liz Claiborne outlet store where Shane had worked for years, childhood and family friends...the attire ranging from studded jackets & Mohawks to business suits.
Kurt, a biker who ran a local sound company we'd used leaned in close and told me "don't worry brother, I tucked a few joints in with him for the ride". Keno-core icon Beautiful Burt cried...which made me cry. I stepped into the vacant, flower-filled second chapel to pull myself together. The woman who worked at Walmart and had lived upstairs from me and Shane with her husband before we moved into the Hellfire House followed me in to tell me how sorry she was and what a great guy he'd been. It was astounding how many people he'd touched.
At the end, after everyone else had left, I walked his parents around the building and explained who each gift of flowers was from - where they lived, how we'd met them...maybe a funny anecdote if one came to mind.
I don't remember how long the wake lasted...but I know I was completely drained by the end. The funeral would be the next day and I had a eulogy to deliver at a Catholic Church (more on that later). I desperately needed to rest, but knowing sleep would never come unassisted...I drank instead.