I raced to the casket as if it were going to grow feet and run away. At least in my head. My body couldn’t keep up with the blood flow rushing inside. Everything appeared faster. Everything was louder. Everything was darker. Everything was madness. Everything was a blur.
Everything but her.
At least her body. Her body was still. Because she was no longer filled with the familiar soul I once laughed with. The soul was gone. It disappeared into thin air. Or so I imagined. The body just laid there. I was afraid to touch it at first. But I was able to kiss it before it closed and locked forever. It was the center of my universe that evening. I had waited all week to see it. The viewing. The funeral. I was curious. I was twelve.
I was at the front of the line. It was impossible not to see it.
I chose to be the first one. It didn’t bother me. I was numb.
Faces passed, hands brushed, eyes watered, smiles struggled, and I nodded.
I wanted to slap the faces of most the people who showed their face and put on a show. Like they knew me. Like they knew her. How sorry they were. Like they had been there all along. I didn’t know over half the people who came to show their sympathies. Or I did know them and didn’t want to. Or I knew of them. I guess funerals are for exactly that. For the guilty. For the shameful. I just wanted to run. But backwards. I wanted to rewind.
Those feelings have escaped me since then. But at the time, I didn’t care.
I wish the me now could tell the me then, it would be alright. My world had turned upside down and I was in shock. We were all talking about time. We were all talking about how there wasn’t much left. But it didn’t really sink in. Not until I saw it in stone.
It’s like I was on fire. There is nothing quite like death.
I remember calling our home number. I would listen to it ring for what seemed like hours only to be told it had been disconnected. Her life had been disconnected.
It was more real than anything I had ever felt before. Something I thought I would never recover from. Never was such a permanent word. It was terrifying. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. But nothing happened.
I tried to retrace my steps. I tried to hold onto what was more than just a soulless body preparing to decay. Something I also thought about constantly that day. 6 feet under. Buried. Trapped.
I tried to remember her smell. Her laughter. Her smile. Her touch. Her humor. Her voice. Her words.
That day was easy. It was easy to remember those things. It was easy to consume myself in what we had just a week before.
But now…I dig. I dig deep and deeper each time I want to go back. So far I panic that it’s fading. It’s so far away I’m afraid of forgetting. I’m afraid I won’t always be able to pick up my shovel and dig far enough to retrieve a memory.
The video displayed pictures and recordings of her life. Stories were told. Flowers traced the walls. Faces blurred. Children were children, unable to giggle, dance, run, play – because it was “inappropriate”. I would have rather been a child then. I real child. A young happy child. A child who had no idea what was going on. A joyful child. A child who didn’t know any better. I would have thrown a tantrum.
I wanted to lift her body up and magically spread pixie dust on the two of us and fly away to Neverland.
I guess I was a child. But I didn’t believe that. I had to be older. I had to be stronger.
I wanted to call her “Stacey” and her call me “Dolores”. We could talk in our infamous Jersey accents and fight about our non-existant husbands and what kind of mattress we preferred.
I wanted it to be the early hours of the morning so I could jump into bed with her and “cuddle” because all we had was each other.
I wanted to hear her obnoxiously (on purpose) yawn acting as my alarm clock each morning just so I could complain and beg her to shut up.
I wanted to turn on the karaoke machine she bought us for Christmas and sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart (Turn around)” one last time.
I wanted it to snow so we could make hot chocolate and she would somehow coax me into shoveling the sidewalk and driveway before it got too thick.
I wanted to drive to Arizona and open my door and start to panic because it was way too hot and I convinced my brain I couldn’t breathe and she would calm me down with her words by telling me it was only a few degrees hotter than a summer in Idaho.
I wanted it to be an autumn evening where the leaves would gracefully fall before my feet and I would be walking next to her on a familiar path on our many walks together.
I wanted it to be the middle of the night after I had a panic attack about the world ending and the afterlife and she would calm me by telling me God only gave us 10% of our brains and we don’t know everything, and we won’t know until we meet again. She would hold me and I could breathe again.
I wanted to be in the nursing home when she worked there and gave me a tour saying hello to all the residents and making them smile because they didn’t have frequent visitors.
I wanted it to be a late night after I finished watching One Tree Hill and I would walk over to my mother at her desk studying for one of her nursing exams begging me to watch another episode so she could get through her chapters. I was so proud of her.
I wanted it to be the time we went on a walk and a dog “chased” her and I told her she was overreacting and the dog wouldn’t hurt her, and she threatened to throw a rock down its throat and I begged her not to and she said she promised she wouldn’t, for me.
I wanted it to be an ordinary trip to Broulim’s Grocery Store for a kid’s free cookie and she would make me sneak her one.
I wanted to be in the bathroom washing my hands and she would beg me to wash her back while she was in the bathtub and I would always rub over the part of her back that was indented just enough to notice and she would tell me that she got it from scratching her back with fake nails, and I would act surprised no matter how many times I asked before.
I wanted it to be a regular Sunday afternoon after church at Frontier Pie’s getting a slice of our favorite pie, but always sharing with each other and fighting over the best pieces with our forks.
I wanted to be in the McDonald’s drive thru excited about getting an ice cream cone, but never getting the full amount of ice cream because she would always chomp down on the top before handing me the cone, and I would pretend to get mad.
I wanted to be in the living room in our pajamas where she would randomly lift up her pant legs and say how her ankles/legs looked like a chicken, and I would call her “Chicken legs” and we would laugh because it was true.
I wanted it to be the first time I saw her after she came home from Salt Lake City LDS Hospital and I felt so awkward because she was bald but I broke the silence and rubbed the top of her head and said that her hair was growing back and it felt like baby chick fuzz.
I wanted it to be the time when she collapsed up the staircase turning pale after a trip to the Aberdeen doctor, and making me run to our apartment to call her friend so she could go to the hospital because she couldn’t breathe. And we found out that her spleen had burst and we waited in the hospital and my dad drove down from Pocatello. And I wanted to see her so badly that I opened the door to her room and I saw her puking blood and they made me leave and my heart raced, because for the first time I realized that in life it’s possible to lose the things you love the most and it’s okay to cry. And I found out just how strong she was and how badly she wanted to live life. And I curled up into a ball and whispered. “She’s a survivor” And she was.
I wanted it to be the night at the Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast where we had the entire place to ourselves and it had snowed outside covering the world with a giant white blanket and we played in the hot tub, and lazed around eating Fong’s chinese food and enjoyed what we had like it would be gone tomorrow.
And it was. Almost.
A few weeks later she died.
I love you and miss you everyday mom.