Death is an unexpected, unwelcome demon. It slitters like a snake and wraps itself upon its victim, choking away his life. But this greedy monster doesn't stop there, no, it slitters around everyone connected to that person, leaving its daunting precense in their hearts. As i stand mere feet away from the empty grave of my father watching him being lowered in, i feel that demon squeezing at my heart with shards of glass. Its as if i'm here but not really. As if i'm watching but not seeing, not believing. If only it was a dream.
My mother wails on her kness beside me her tears drenching even the ground beneath her. Jacob, my little brother pulls at the charcoal black sleeve of my suit jacket his, eyes never leaving our father's casket. "Jeff," he asks. "Father will wake up, right? He'll come home and tell me stories about his boyhood again, right, Jeff?" After looking into those dark brown eyes, so much like my father's, for only a minute, i had to look away. I couldn't come to telling him no. No dear Jacob, father will not come home again. No more storytelling or goodnight kisses from him.
Thinking the words makes me recollect when i was Jacob's age and father used to do those very things with me. Feeling the makeshift wall that i had constructed around my heard tremble, i gripped my jaw, begging for the tears not to fall. On his deathbed my father told me not to cry when he dies...he finds it disrescpectful for a man to cry at a funeral. Some old custom from his homeland i guess. But i had promised and am willing myself to obey, however shaken my equilibrium may be, i would not cry.
Dirt is being thrown into the grave over his casket. The preacher goes first then hands the shovel to me, my father's eldest son. My hands trembled so badly that i was surprised when i acomplished the task. I retook my position near my brother and mother and watched the funeral proceed. My mother was unconsolable, even gripping my hand she couldn't find solace.
Eventually the ceremony ended. I stood and accepted the handshakes and warm hugs from our family and friends, doing my best to stay steady. When the crowd died down and everyone took their leave, i returned to my mother's side. "Perhaps we should leave now mother. Come home and have some tea." My voice was not mine, so thick with the emotion that i tried to keep control over.
She shook her head. "No, take your brother and go home. I-i just want a few more minutes." I nodded but when i went for him, Jacob refused, deciding that he too wanted a few more minutes. So i left them to themslves and their memories and headed out of the cemetary. I decided to wait along in the church which i found empty and dark but for a few twinkling candles. How comforting it felt.
I always went to church, but never liked the front seats. But today i had to endure it with my father lying dead before me. Gosh he was so strong...and showed no sign at all of the illness that suddenly took him. Maybe that would've made things better? Given us a heads up?
"Why?" My voice quivered though i had not meant to speak out loud. "Why him? He was all we had." Tear fell down my face without permision and i decided that they didn't need permission....they had plenty good reason. I felt the tightness on my heart loosen with agonizing slowness. I fell to my knees in the isle before the alter and the statue of Christ. He never smiles. It's as if he too feels pain..my pain. My breath came in quickly as several sobs escaped my lips from deep in my chest. I hated crying...never did it since i was twelve and today at twenty years of age i cried like a child...grieving his father. My shoulders shook as the hot tears fell...my whole body felt hot and cold all at once. I felt terribly alone but how could i be when surrouned by so much hurt.
My chest hurt and my face felt tight with hot dried tears by the time i stood again. Only two candles remained lit and the darkness engulfed me like the flame of tragety that i'd just woke from. Looking out the massive wooden doors at the end of the church i felt relief because i'd be able to breathe again...the same air that he once breathed. But i also felt solemness because he would not be there. There'd be nothing normal about that world waiting beyond those wooden doors.
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