Friday, July 15, 2016

With Regards to Funerals and Forgetting

“The funeral was yesterday. It was a beautiful day; the kind of day that would’ve motivated you to pull me outside so that we could set up an impromptu picnic and experience it in its entirety.  It felt wrong, Kate. You know how in the movies, whenever there’s a funeral, it’s always pouring rain? Obviously that’s not how it happens. People die every day. The world can’t stop what it’s doing to mourn every person. The sun wouldn’t find any time to shine. Still, I wish it had stopped for you. Just for an hour or two, you know? Ha… You’d probably hate it if that had happened.

“The service was – I don’t know; standard I guess? This was the first one I’ve attended. It felt… lacking. Probably because you weren’t there. Everything feels sort of lacking.

“Your mother and father spoke.  Sammy spoke. I spoke. We just talked for as long as we could feasibly manage. I think we were afraid to stop. Despite the sorrow, each story gave us a chance to keep you here a few minutes more. With each word that passed through our lips, you stood next to us, the left side of your mouth curled into that mischievous smirk. When the words began to fade, you went along with them. We were not ready for that. I was not ready for that. I’m still not ready for it. I don’t think I ever will be.

“I’m scared, Kate. I’m scared that your features are going to fade in my mind. I imagine them being an old Polaroid beaten and weathered to hell over a decade, only barely recognizable by the photographer. I don’t want to forget your face; to forget the taste of your lips; to forget the feeling of your head resting on my chest when we lay together; the sound of your voice. Oh god. I’m never going to hear it again. The sweetness created with each word you spoke into the world will never be tasted by my ears again. They say that a person’s voice is the first thing that you forget about a person. I’m terrified that they’re right.

“The list of things I’m afraid to forget is too long to remember. What do I do? I panic. That’s what I do. The anxiety and pain eats away at me. I can feel it clawing into my chest. The fear opens me up and lets the darkness in. How do I fight that, Kate? I’m defenseless. I’m a little boy again, afraid of the dark. I’m losing my grip on the hand that pulls me through it; that shows me the path through the pain: your hand. What do I do?

“I think I have to write. I have to write like I’m my time is running out. I have to write like the darkness is about to tear a hole right through my chest and engulf me. I need to tell a story, your story. I need to grip tight on what’s left of you and move forward. I need to remember you. I need to write the story of the woman who changed my life; the woman who saved me; the woman who has done more good for and cared more about this world than anyone else I’ve known. You deserve better than to be forgotten. You deserve so much more than that…

“I’m sorry, Kate. I’m sure you’d tell me I’m talking too much. That I’m thinking too much. That I just need to shut the hell up and listen.”

And so I do. I look up from her tombstone and look around. Off in the distance a young couple kneels in front of a set of graves and rests a single rose in front of each one.

An older woman a few yards away stands next to her husband’s grave. She seems to be mid-conversation. I’m unable to make out any of the words.

Behind me a few paces back, a young man sits cross-legged, explaining in detail to his mother’s tombstone the bullshit that he has to deal with at work. He laughs aloud. “Yeah, that’s Tim. As thick as always.” After a few minutes, he stands up to leave. “Love you, Mom… Yeah, of course! I’ll give him a hug from you. I’ll see you next week.”

Rain begins to fall. It starts slowly, only a few drops here and there at first. But within a minute or two it begins to pour. I turn back to her once more and hold my hands up towards the sky.

“Ha… I guess I’ll take it. It might be a day late, but it’s something. I think you’re right Kate. I think things will be okay so long as I just stop and listen. I won’t lose my way if I just listen. I will not forget your voice if I just stop and listen. Thank you, Kate. I’ll stop by tomorrow. Be good while I’m gone. I love you.”

I head back to my car, letting the rain soak into the thin layer of clothes I have on. I pass by a man in a coat and hat bending down, placing a single flower in front of a grave. Just over the sound of the rain I make out his last words to his wife. “Happy four years, darling. I love you.” He straightens back up, pulls his hat down and coat up, and walks back toward the parking lot.

I walk a few paces behind him, admiring the man's commitment. A slight smile spreads across my face, as a feel a small fire lit in my chest, keeping the darkness at bay. I will not forget. If nothing else, I will not forget.