Chapter 6: ...Butterflies are free to fly...

Alexis was in my face when I woke up. She was grabbing my shoulders and dropping tears on my face. I squirmed and blinked away sleep in my eyes, "What's going on?" I mumbled. Groggy voice.

"Tay, It's time to wake up," She said, "You've got to go ... The wake is in two hours... Tay wake up!"

I sat up, "Fucking Christ, calm down..." I rolled over, "It's in two hours..."

She was crying beside me and I felt her arms around me, clinging to me for safety from her demons. Her tears were falling on the bare skin of my back, and I couldn't sleep with this.

"Alexis... Calm down, please..." I tried to say, "I don't want to go... Why can't you just leave me...?"

"You have to go, Tay... You have to go..."

I sighed and brought my knees to my chest, noticing I was naked. I felt exposed and naked in every sense of the word. "Please..." I begged her, "Please, leave me be for a moment..." I didn't like feeling so vulnerable. I didn't like being so vulnerable. I didn't want Zac's girl to see me naked. I didn't want her to see my eyes. I didn't want her to hold me like she was. She was too close for comfort. Too close to what was under the surface. Too close to what was under the sheet. Too close to my heart.

She pulled away, leaving a pool of her tears on my shoulder. I curled up in my sheets until I heard her leave the room. I turned over, allowing my eyes to open toward the window. The dashes of sunlight peeking through and scattering on my carpet.

I stood up and walked over to the closet, where my clothes were hanging. I didn't want to wear my black tuxedo. Infact, I would have rather stood naked in front of the mirror all day. Smoking a cigarette and letting red hot ashes land on my thighs...burning. But that was silly.

I put on a pair of boxers and headed to the bathroom to freshen up. Wash my face. Clear away my red eyes. Comb my hair. I wanted to be just right for the occasion. But what did it matter? Because I knew that after an hour or two I would just look like a mess again. I decided the least I could do was spare people of my morning breath and sprayed my throat with "Sweet breath." I grabbed my bottle of Valium. I swallowed two pills. You'll be okay today, Tay. I tried to tell myself.

I took the bottle and hid it in the back of the bathroom closet. I don't know why I did this... It was an old compulsive habit picked up from years of hiding things from my brothers, from my family, and from myself, even.

I dressed slowly. Black slacks. Black shirt, tucked in. Dark red... black patterned cummerbund. Black jacket. Mirror Check. Three boxes of tissues. Two Valium pills for the road. Black socks. Black shiny shoes. I was ready.

Arriving at the funeral home, I felt dread. I didn't know if I was going to make it... because behind my back my parents had been arranging all these things. I didn't know if it was going to be open-casket. If I was going to have to stare at his face all day, face some of the unbearable facts.

I met my cousins at the door. Sad faces... I hadn't seen some of these people in years, and I knew that Zac hadn't either. That wasn't fair. That wasn't fair that a situation like this is the only way to bring a family back in the same room. Relatives hugged me, and kissed me and visited with Me.

Things were being set up. Tissues... The guest book... Refreshments for the guests - I wondered about this for a second, but then I remembered the Hanson gene. We were a large bunch... many families with 5 or 6 children or more... multiply that by 5 more children and you have a LOT of people. But the one thing every mother that bore the name "Hanson" was most concerned about was : Keeping her family well fed. My mom's family was a little bit more reserved, they brought flowers instead of cakes. You could call it extravagant, I suppose. The wake hadn't even started yet and the room was already decorated with flowers, and gifts from relatives across the globe, floor to ceiling. The room was full of people and energy, and if I didn't know better I would have thought this was a reunion, or some type of happy social occasion. Everyone was visiting for the first time in years, smiling, saying their sorry's first (always), then saying their how are you's and moving on with the conversation.

But when two of my cousins, and two of my uncles came in with the casket the whole room fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone watched as it was brought to the front of the room and everyone was wondering. Who was going to move first when those four men stepped away.

I closed my eyes and tried to take myself somewhere else...anywhere else. I felt hands on me, and I opened my eyes. I turned to see who it was and I was soon face to face with my mother. I wrapped my arms around her in a hug, trying to comfort the tears out of her eyes. Trying to keep my tears inside. I hated this. I hated seeing my mother - who only gave life - be so sad. Be so broken. I hadn't even looked up yet, I was too afraid of what I'd see...

"Mom, is it open or closed casket?"

"Open."

"Why...? Why..."

"I don't know."

"I don't want to look..."

"Be strong for me, Taylor..."

"I don't know if I can... I don't know if I can." I said, helplessly; hopelessly.

"You can, I know you can... I've seen you be strong before... You're very strong willed... I know it. Just keep your chin up."

"I'm not strong enough to look."

"Shh..." She said to my tears. I looked up slowly and saw family members gathered around it, praying, crying. I pulled away from my mother and slowly moved toward it, squeezing her hand as we walked along. When he came into view I began to feel sick to my stomach. All I could think of was the hospital room... the doctors... The machines. How he looked then... How he looked when he breathed his last breath.

I squeezed my Mom's hand as we drew closer. I stared into the peaceful face of my brother. As if he was asleep. But all I could picture was his contorted face, and the sounds of his struggling as the life was taken from him. I turned my face down to the floor and watched the teardrops splash there. It was as if they were falling in slow motion... first they would slide off of my cheeks and I would watch them float like crystal feathers toward the ground then shatter like glass. Shattered was how I felt.

I didn't kneel by him, instead I stood over his body, lifting his cold hand and kissing it, leaving wet trails of life on his grayed skin. I wished that I could cry him back to life, like in a fairytale. I wished I was Prince Charming, and he was Sleeping Beauty, and a simple kiss or a touch would wake him from his eternal sleep. I lay a kiss and more tears on his cheek cupping his face in my hands. I stared for a minute... I had to let go, I didn't want to, but I knew I had to. I said aloud to him, "So, this is Goodbye..."

"So this is Goodbye," I repeated, "I never told you I loved you enough... I never was a good enough brother... I'll miss you like flowers in spring... I think with out you I might as well move to the North Pole... Please have a good stay in heaven or wherever you are without me... and wait for me when I get there. I love you."

I forced myself to step away, and the separation had just become more profound. My father was now at Zac's side. He was performing a similar ritual... Wishing the same things I had been. Why couldn't it have been someone else?

I looked out the window and saw people lining up already. Zac's friends... other relatives. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive this. The first four hours were all friends and close family, then the rest... Fans and latecomers... Another six hours (after a brief break for dinner and a nap.) Then it wasn't over after that... more fans for another six hours the following day. It was an unusual wake, due to the circumstances of us, and it wasn't going to be easy.

Being famous brings death to a whole different level, and we wanted our fans to be there. But I didn't know if I could stand that long, and look every fan in the eye, and listen to them cry, and say they were sorry. I didn't know if I could look anyone in the eye. I wondered if fans presence, meant press presence. I knew the answer, and I found myself praying that it wasn't true. I wanted something I've done in my life to have meaning... beyond the watered down version the media puts out. The media has devalued everything I've ever held close to me, and I didn't want them to devalue this. Because for once, this was something my heart would not allow to be devalued.

My father stood next to the casket, my mother beside him, Isaac, then me. On my left were my sisters and Mack, Alexis holding Zoë's hand, and then a few immediate relatives (Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and a few cousins). Many of the relatives beyond the immediate family dispersed throughout the wake, once more people began to show the line grew shorter, and it had become more of a clump than a line. The room had become hot and crowded with people. Person after person came by and shook my hand. I saw a lot of Zac's friends and I was surprised to see so many of our colleagues and fellow musicians.

I thought I would be able to stand strong like my Dad... and like Isaac managed for a short while. But I couldn't stop the tears. I couldn't shake the memory of seeing Zac dying right before my eyes, and I could see him dying every time I saw the broken eyes of one of his friends.

Chris, our long-time manager was one of the first few people there. He stepped up like a businessman, face emotionless, eyes dry. But I watched him carefully as he knelt down beside the casket to pray. And I watched his shoulders start to shake, and I felt him dying inside me again, as I watched Chris break. He could barely face me as I could barely face him, and he brought Isaac to a fit of hysterics. They held each other passing unspoken messages to each other in shattering tears on their shoulders.

My knees felt weak and I felt my heartbreak pulsing through my body every time I looked over at him. My cheeks felt raw from the salty tears sucking the moisture out... my mouth felt dry. And I was being hugged and kissed by and endless throng of relatives, friends and colleagues. There was a crazy array of people who showed to pay their respects. The Dust Brothers came, all the members of Admiral Twin, Johnny Lang, Stephen Lironi, and numerous other musicians and friends we had worked with/encountered over the years. I was, infact, rather shocked, almost, to see some of them.

I tried to be professional, and I tried to swallow my tears. But every time more would slip out instead of staying behind my eyelids. I wished I could scream and collapse into someone's arms and be taken away ... so I didn't have to face the truth, so I didn't have to face the sorrow. Remaining emotionless and unaffected was ineffective, and I just didn't feel right mussing up everyone's suits with my tears.

It was hard... It was hard to be a professional, and a person all at once. But I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was stand in line and see all of those fans. My parents stood with Isaac and I for an hour or two in the line, but dropped out leaving us to fend for ourselves. Fans had made a regular event out of it, leaving small gifts... Letters... Lighting candles... They came with picnic baskets and blankets and sat outside enjoying this unusually warm February day. Everything was dead around them. The grass wasn't green... The day wasn't happy... But the sun was shining, and the weather was warm. They ate sandwiches, wearing sweatshirts, and talked with a low tone.

Isaac and I were given stools to rest our legs, but remain eye level with every one. Hundreds and hundreds of them spilled through the doors. Tears on their cheeks, candles in their hands, and love. They had so much love.

Annissa stepped up to me, and I felt my heart tie itself in knots. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed my tears and said to me as we embraced, "You're strong, Taylor."

"I'm not strong..." I said, my body shaking with weakness, "I've... got nothing left."

Before she stepped away, she whispered in my ear, "You've got you. You are strong." I felt her squeeze my hand, as if for some reassurance.

When it started to get late, and the line slowed. Isaac and I disappeared into the crowd. I stepped outside almost afraid of staring at Zac, so motionless, for any longer. It was so surreal, to see him so dead and pale, and probably horrible for my mental health thinking about it so much. When I looked around me at the scene outside, the tears came at full force.

Candles... Hundreds of candles. Everywhere. Hundreds of people waiting all day... from everywhere. They were all here for him and I hadn't ever seen anything so beautiful in my life. All of their faces were now turned to me, the red sunset made them look unreal. Tears shimmered in the little bit of light left in day.

I fell to my knees and sobbed with my face in my hands. And I didn't care who was watching, I didn't care if there were reporters and photographers, I didn't care if the fans were seeing me weak, I just didn't care. I just wanted to... I just needed to cry. I never saw something so beautiful... so truthful. They really loved us, and I felt blessed to the depths of my soul.

A hand was on my shoulder and I looked up to see Annissa once again.

"Hey Tay, you alright?"

I couldn't stop the tears. I just reached out and hugged her. Pulling her into my arms and saying into her neck, "You're beautiful... You're beautiful! I love you, I love you... Thank you... Thank you...all."

She had a smile on her face, "Tay, We love you too." She placed her hands on my chest, "Shh... Shh..."

I felt soothed and my tears soon ceased, "You must be an angel," I hummed.

She shook her head, "No, not an angel."

From my point of view, she was glowing, and her eyes were so true. Full of tears, but full of truth. You're my angel. I said in my head. She smiled through her tears, and helped me stand up again. She led me through the maze of picnic baskets, blankets, and people. I shook hands and greeted many people along the way. Thank you for coming, thank you for coming, I appreciate this so much. Thank you for loving Hanson. When we finally sat, I sat beside her on a blanket with a few other girls.

They wore the same sad faces that I had seen all day. It was comforting, though, to feel the love they radiated. I didn't know what to say, I didn't know how to express to them my appreciation. Because regardless of how doubled over in pain I was, this meant a lot to me... It meant a lot that someone cared, or understood.

I turned my face to the sunset, and said, "It's beautiful, isn't it?" I felt the tears on my cheeks, "It's almost as if the sun came out to pay its respects, too. Because Zac is what keeps the sun shining."

"He looks like an angel," came a voice across from me, "Whose wings were torn off and heart was broken."

I turned my face to the girl. "Thank you," I said grabbing her hand, "Thank you so much for being here, it means so much."

"Thank you," She replied, "Thank you for being in my life."

There was a moment of silence among the people around us, and Annissa pulled out a pack of Camel Lights. I sat back and leaned towards her, eager to have a cigarette, I hadn't had one all day. But when she opened the box there weren't cigarettes in there, instead, little baggies of something I was oh-too-familiar with. She packed a bowl and held the piece in front of my face.

"Smoke with us Tay?"

It had been a few months since I'd done this... Since I'd promised to drop my drug habit, completely. But I longed to taste it again, to feel the warm smoke float down to my lungs and spread its sensations over my body. I took the pipe in my hands, lit it with the lighter and inhaled. I held the smoke inside my throat for a while and the girls all leaned forward wanting to be the one to accept a blowback. I leaned in close to the girl who had said I looked like an angel, and exhaled a thin line of smoke between her open lips. Annissa was taking a hit now, and the pipe was passed around the circle, each person choosing someone else for blowback.

It had been so long. I longed to feel numb again... I longed to ease the pain. I knew that Zac would have come up and shoved my pipe up my ass, but I couldn't stop. It was better than feeling empty and hurt. Anything was better than what I was feeling.

I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong. I was familiar with such games. I was familiar with this atmosphere, surrounded by people I didn't know, passing a pipe... People all around, who either weren't watching or didn't care. I wasn't being hoarded by fans, I wasn't being singled out for once. It felt as if I were part of the whole - rather than a single person surrounded by a whole. Our circle had grown, and a few people stopped and talked to me - but this was nothing like I had ever experienced with the fans. We had all grown a little older, and a little more mature over the years, but this was the first time I had ever seen them so low-key.

They were crying, they were sending me their condolences, and their love. They were wishing me the best, and I cried with them. I cried with them, because I was now a part of their group. No longer Taylor Hanson Super Pop Star... I was now just another person, mourning over the loss of a loved one, of someone significant in my life. But there was no screaming, there was no overwhelming excitement to see me. Perhaps the screams got lost somewhere along the way, lost with their sorrow. Lost with age and maturity. Lost with Zac. Maybe they hadn't been around so much and I just hadn't taken the time to notice.

The post-smoking haze surrounded me and everyone was taking their last hits and playing their silly blowback game. The high was just setting in when Isaac found a spot beside Me.

"Mingling with the crowd?" He said to me, gently.

I nodded, and motioned toward Annissa, "She dragged me, you should stay..." I said losing my train of thought.

"I think I will stay," He said, softly, "I haven't been among such a large group of fans without getting mauled before..." He joked.

"Isn't it beautiful?" I said, motioning my hand around, "The candles everywhere?" I noticed how bright they shone now that it was dark.

He nodded and I saw tears sliding down his cheeks. I caught them in my hands, "They love us, Isaac. They love him, so much. I finally understand."

We embraced, and I noticed there was now a larger group around us. We spent the rest of the night socializing with fans and I returned home feeling more broken than I had before.

I took an extra dose of Valium and headed off to bed, getting prepared for the next two days. These were going to be the two most emotionally taxing days of my life.