Devon and Delilah met at a funeral. It was a gray day, pockets of rain here and there and the women wore hats and the men didn’t care about rain getting on their suits — most didn’t need to wear them again anytime soon.
Devon noticed her first. She, clad in black, thin, crying, looked fragile to the point of enormous beauty. It was Delilah, however, that started the conversation. It turned out that she was less vulnerable, more brave. The mark of a woman who had spent most of her life performing,
Delilah’s opener was simple, “Do you have directions back to the house?”
Devon looked up at her, having previously been examining the floor of the cemetery’s office building.
“Yeah,” he said. “I can show you.”
To which he took out his phone and traced a very simple route back to the home where folks were gathering to see the family.
“How did you know Aunt Gerri?” Devon asked.
“She was my piano teacher,” Delilah said. “And I guess you answered that question for me.”
The two exchanged small chat for another few minutes. Delilah, in the meantime, forgot the directions back to the house — was it right, right left, or left, right, left — and instead asked if she could follow Devon back there.
He obliged and smiled a wide smile — the first of the day.
At the home, Devon and Delilah continued their conversation, noticeably both expressing an infatuation with each other. By the time Delilah had to leave (“I’m, like two hours late for a meeting”) — the two had exchanged phone numbers and agreed on a date the following Friday night.
If the beginning of the relationship between the two happened in inauspicious circumstances, the rest of the relationship was more akin to growth of life than anything related to death. It was apparent to both immediately that a future was possible. Probable, in fact.
There were nights on the boardwalk spent hand-in-hand, kissing well into the deep night. Times Devon watched Delilah play piano live in concert, with gazers watching and listening in a deep meditation. He just smiled through. His favorite times were waking up late on Sundays, descending to her first floor and being greeted with the sound of her practice. Her favorite times were his gazes into buildings, the discussion of the architectural aspects occurring in broad daylight that so few knew about. Even his criticism were endearing. She knew one day he would design the perfect building, and that it would carry her energy in it as it rose up.
Devon, on a sunny day spent laying and reading in a park, was the first to say I love you. Delilah said it next, and more often as the months passed. When asked why he said it less often, his response was always “I just mean it more when I do”
Sixteen months into the relationship, it was apparent to everyone, including the couple, that the process toward matrimony should be started. In conversations this was discussed openly, with only the most personal of thoughts removed from it. Devon wanted to be married in a Cathedral in Georgia he found once. Delilah wanted the party be outside. They both agreed that the other was someone they would like to spend the rest of their lives with.
One morning, Delilah, in a fit of honesty, said “I’d like to be engaged in the place we first knew we loved each other.”
Devon nodded. He hugged her. They had coffee in the kitchen with the sun coming in and ate biscuits that Delilah made fresh.
It was only later that Devon thought more about his love’s statement. He occurred to him, after only a minute of thinking, that he would have to propose at a funeral — and planned to do so at the next one they attended.
The following week, Devon bought a ring and left it with his sister at her house, without explanation other than, “I’m going to propose soon”
Devon, who had counted the previous year’s funerals at 4, thought to himself about the probability of a timeline for the next funeral.
His great aunt (different side of the family than Gerri) was 79 and in poor health. His father’s sister was a smoker and had already been hospitalized with lung issues twice. On Delilah’s side, there were three living grandparents, each with a sort of health problem that seemed to offer a distinct possibility of being life-ending soon.
It was a grim topic met a kind of giddy in Devon. Each time Delilah talked to her parents in the coming months, Devon made a point to ask about her grandparents and any updates. When Delilah inquired about this, he just simply said, “I’d like them to be around for the wedding,” a line he thought of off the topic of his head the first time and had to repeat for consistency each time after.
A month passed with no one even committed to the hospital. Another month passed. Life at home was great, and the extended family seemed to stay healthy and positive – a few even mirroring Devon’s quip and promising the couple to make it to the wedding.
In the third month, a distant relative of Delilah’s passed away. Delilah got an email from her mother informing her.
When she told Devon, he suggested they pay their respects at the funeral. “When is it,” he asked, “I’ll make sure we clear our schedules.”
Delilah looked at him oddly and let him know she didn’t think they needed to attend. “I met her once,” she said. “When I was seven and she visited from California.”
Devon sighed and left the room.
Months four and five had no deaths, but a few promising leads. Devon’s great aunt was committed to the hospital once again with chest pains, and Delilah’s maternal grandfather had a minor stroke and was rushed to the hospital where he was given a clean bill of health to leave the next day.
By month six, Devon was growing anxious. His sister had asked about the ring, still in her kitchen drawer and growing dust on the case. Delilah had made more than a few mentions of an anxiousness as well.
When the hints came, Devon responded casually with, “I’m just waiting for the right moment.”
The months rolled on with health and happiness. The couple celebrated their second anniversary. Birthdays were celebrated with style and no doubt some disappointment on Delilah’s part that no ring adorned her finger.
Thoughts of assisting in the process of someone dying (most call this “murder”) crossed Devon’s mind more than once. He quickly dispelled them but could not dispel the stress with this taking so long. Stress started to creep in.
Sometime around ten months after buying his engagement ring, Devon was called to the hospital to see his great aunt. He drove quickly, ready to say his somber goodbyes and start planning for his speech for his one-knee moment and how the couple would tell their family and friends of the engagement.
When Devon arrive dat the hospital, however, his aunt was on her feet, walking. She was so thankful he came. He looked at the few pillows his great aunt was resting on and grinder his teeth just a bit with a quick-lived fantasy of smothering here.
His patience was tried and running short. He wanted to be done with this long waiting period and sensed a certain shame in Delilah that they had not gotten engaged yet. He could tell she began to have doubts about him and his commitment, doubts he could only quell with words.
Devon weighed the option of just coming home with a bouquet of flowers and getting down on one knee. Or doing at the fancy Greek restaurant down their street they loved so much. Surely, the owner would overextend himself to help such regulars out.
But he wanted his love to have her dream proposal and so he came back to the funeral wishing. Some nights he paced around and imagined the phone ringing with the most awful of news. Other days, to or from work he drove by the cemetery thinking about heading in and asking for a print-out of upcoming ceremonies to see if he could maybe fake an acquaintance or a work friend that Delilah hadn’t met that may have succumbed to a sudden stroke. He checked the obituaries daily for stories of people he could convince her that he had crossed paths with once or twice.
Still, nothing. Nothing fit. When he came home one day and mentioned that a coworker had had a stroke and was in the hospital (Devon planned to have him die two days later), Delilah went on about the stress of his work and made Devon go see their doctor as soon as he could get an appointment.
Just a week before the one year mark from her wish, Devon came home and found Delilah on the couch reading. She looked sad and he went over to sit with her. She asked about his aunt to which he replied, with an inadvertent sight that she was doing just fine.
“Honey,” Delilah said, “are you getting cold feet of us being together?”
“No,” he said. “No, of course not. Why would you ask?”
“I thought you would have proposed by now. I thought we had talked about it before.”
“We did, we did.”
“And you said you were waiting for the moment.”
“Well we were on the boardwalk a few months after that, and once in June with Jenny and Adam, and we were there last month. I thought that was it.”
“Yes. That’s what I wanted.”
“I thought you wanted to have me propose where we fell in love.”
“Yes,” she said. “At the boardwalk. Where you said I love you”
Devon took a long gulp. He had been wrong and twele months had dragged by with his love wondering what was going on. He wish he knew that. He only wanted the best for her.
“Where did you think I meant,” she said.
“Well, at a funeral.”
“Yeah. Remember Aunt Gerri?”
“A FUCKING FUNERAL?”
Devon gulped again. He glared away from her in his admission of shame.
“That’s the least fucking romantic thing… I can’t. I can’t even believe you would think that.”
“No but Devon! That’s the least romantic thing I’ve ever heard. That’s, ugh, that’s perverse”
With that, Delilah threw her book on the couch and kicked Devon subtly with the swing of her legs. She stormed upstairs.
Devon, thinking fast, got in his car and drove to his sister’s house. He grabbed the ring. He ran out of the house before his sister could ask any question.
He came back to his house with Delilah. He went upstairs slowly. He opened the door. He found his future wife crying into a pillow.
“Delilah,” he said.
He got down on one knee.
She turned over and saw him. “No..” she started but she was interrupted.
“I messed up,” he said, voice shaking with pulses. “I was wrong about what you wanted. But listen. you said you wanted to be proposed to where we fell in love. That, for me, was that funeral. The first time I saw you. The first time you talked to me. The day we sat on that couch and talked about art.”
She offered a slight smile.
“I’m sorry,” he continued. “But in my mind that’s where we fell in love. I didn’t need to say “I love you” to know that.”
She smiled a little bigger.
“So,” he began, slowing down. “Delilah, will you marry me?”
With that she sprung out of bed. jumped into his arms as he stood up and said, “yes you beautiful fucking idiot. yes”
The couple hugged and kissed for several minutes. Delilah wiped tears from her eyes. Devon could not tell if those were the previous tears of sadness or new tears of joy but decided not to ask.
Later, after phone calls had been made and more kisses exchanged, Devon asked, “so was it really the least romantic thing to think about proposing at a funeral”
“No,” she said, “no it wasn’t”
“Maybe, he said, “it was the MOST romantic thing I could have done.”
She laughed. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
And she turned away to pour tea into her cup. Almost to herself she said, “No, I certainly would never say that.”