Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: a funeral.
Every present funeral is every past funeral for me. They send me swimming through dead souls. Drowning in bodies I can no longer touch and with all these sharp exclamations in my mind. Wounds that linger, never quite closing. Scars that I scratch open when I feel the edge of my own raised skin. But I have to remind myself that it’s an end, have to let myself draw up all those wounds in my arms and let them heal again. Let them settle around as if they were nothing more than dirt.
Death is just the way of the world. It’s just the punctuation of life. And after that, the final note, as if from an author greater than ourselves, is a funeral. A revelry for the newly open wound, trying to find closure.
Some mornings you wake up and go to work. Some mornings you wake up and go to a funeral.
(And I wake up. And I wake up. And I wake up. Just sighs, just commas in my life. I am a short pause with no exclamation. I am a scream with no sound. I am shock with no end.)
Funerals are a form of closure or they try to be. There’s no closure with death, there are no answers for all the unasked questions. No bargains to be made. So in reality funerals don’t give closure so much as a space where everyone can be sad in one space. A place where you can see that suddenly, you’ve never been alone. Everyone was storing their grief in a private hole and now they’re vomiting it up in the public square. Thrashing their sadness on the stairs in the front of a crowd. Waiting for their own exclamation to come.
And it’s always the little things that hit me because there is nothing inside of me that could have hubris enough to understand the big ones. It’s standing in a gas station down the street from the cemetery realizing the song on the radio has been following me around and around. It’s that in between sobs I can hear the birds sing. Over the soft tea lights in the window the wind cradles the trees just the same as yesterday, wrapped in its never ending blue horizon. The same song. The same notes. The same sights. As if nothing happened. As if everything is always happening.
No one really knows what to do so they all fidget with their shoes and their hands and they follow the leader. The priest in the chapel says the service is over when no one is ready. Everyone is still stuck in their moment of pure shock. He opens and closes the book again, and the same song on repeat, until we dutifully follow.
Birds disperse when we push the heavy door open. I stomp my feet on the ground to send shocks into my legs. Still here. Still here. Don’t disappear just yet. This is just a soft sigh. This is just a hiccup in the music.
But I travel anyway. Because this funeral is every funeral. Again and again, a song I can’t seem to unlearn. His face frozen as they take him away, the smell of burning wax trapped behind my throat, the cold chill traveling up my spine as I look into the eyes of the statues of Jesus, all of which know I do not belong in this place. In any place.
Lord knows that all friendships are forged in trauma. There are mercies though so sometimes the trauma is a missed bus or a lost wallet or sleeping in late but today it’s trying to buy just the right type of pizza that will cure grief. Lord knows friendship is trauma so sometimes it looks like four women nervously trying to choose an alcohol whose taste everyone will like. Even when they full well know that it will have no taste but grief. No taste but a burn that sublimates into sadness.
We argue over each bottle as if there is a flavor which unmakes death. We all burn the same. Demanding to be able to fix a thing that cannot be fixed. Wanting to call on some ancient wisdom, some piece of overlooked knowledge our grandmothers had told us. Wisdom that we absorbed but was not understood until this moment. And then we will deploy it. Weaponize it against grief. As if death is a war we can win.
I stand in the middle of the supermarket, holding a bottle of whiskey watching three women argue the secrets of death to each other and know that I did not learn this kind knowledge, if such knowledge exists. There were no kind voices to tell me the secrets to soothe the ache of death too personal. That’s why I open the wounds. That’s why they never heal.
At the first funeral I attended I was cradled in the arms of my mother, surrounded by a huddled mass of people all crying for the same cause. Feeling useless and confused about what to do and how to feel about the gaping space in front of our feet. And to the side were two men, forging friendship, trading trauma, arguing over a bottle of alcohol. Just they way we are now.
Because it’s cyclic. A song that is following me around. Death and grief and death. Just a spark, a flinch, and then: an exclamation!