August 21, 2008
By Brooke Shadden, Falkville, AL

The funeral home was massively over-extended.

Most people has suspected a mild turnout--the small remains of a weeping family, the cliche-y friend's of the deceased, maybe a teacher or two--but no one in their wildest imaginings could have ever possibly concieved the large crowd that gathered, silent and properly mournful, at the small funeral home's sober doors. Even I, who could truthfully say knew the most about the deceased, was astonished at the amazing horde or mourners.

I stood within the midst of the crowd, silently taking in the properly sorrowful faces, subdued outfits, and the muffled sound of whispers and --from the family and close friends--stiffled sobs. There were people here the deceased had never known nor cared for; in fact, half the town seemed to have shown up in their mourning clothes.

The bewildered funeral employees were working admirable to greet and seat all the guests, but even from my place in the maelstrom, I could see they were having a hard time. The storm of students seemed to be competing with each other on who could appear the most grief-stricken, and, in the clutches of their truly inspiring fake bereavement, were having difficultly mustering the strength to pass through the doors and into the bland and quiet recieving parlor.

Even among the crowd--though it probably would be more apt to call it an audience-- I was still rudely jostled, my body subjected to petty pushes and shoves as if I were not even there. I had long since gotten used to this, and instead concentrated on keeping out of people's way, a practice that pushed me toward the end of the mob and made me one of the last to slip through the doors. I managed to slip by ungreeted by the pompously somber and comforting ushers and instead helped myself to the only empty seat in the packed chapel; a cramped bench in the back.

In the front pews I could see my family, the dead's family, crying heavily though the ceremony had yet to start. I longed to sit with them, to take my mother's hand and plead with her to forgive me, to explain to her; but I couldn't. I took sick comfort in my hidden seat.

Instilled in the place of dubious honor beside the pulpit, there was --not one-- but two handsome coffins, both covered in funeral wreathes.

I stiffened; in my mind's eye, I could here the screech of tortured metal and see the silouette of a girl outlined in the bright lights of oncoming traffic.

Dear God, how could I be forgiven?

I gave myself to the ceremony. The preacher waxed eloquently on the lives of the deceased, prayed for their safe conduct to heaven. The speakers who came after offered brilliant eulogies, making the bereaved laugh at vaguely funny anecdotes. But all of it was wrong. I, who had know the dead best of all, felt that keenly, and sorrowed for it.

Though my sadness was almost pyshically painful, I didn't cry; I couldn't.

Finally, admist the sniffling and sobbing, both fake and real, the preacher asked the audience in his quiet voice to please rise, to view the dead one last time before they were carried away to their finally resting place. I tensed; time to say goodbye.

Forgetting complely my earlier vendetta to allow the sea of humanity to flow around me unchallenged, I slipped through the crowd indifferently, desperate to reach the front where my relatives clustered, weeping around the open caskets.

I stood behind them now as my mother reached in to one of them, perhaps to smooth her daughter's hair for the last time, or maybe to adjust an article of clothes. The sorrow was painful now; every atom of my being hurt.

I slipped beside her to stare down into the casket....

And was greeted, unsurprising, with my own pale face.

I reached down to touch my closed eyes, and my whispy hands passed straight through, elicting not an ounce of movement from my mother, who had moved on to the next casket. I followed.

My sister lay serenely on the white pillow; having managed to do what I couldn't, she appeared to be peacefully sleeping, her pose and face were natural, while mine seemed strained.

Now I was weeping, my wretched sobs making not a sound as my chest heaved with the weight of them.

The dead do not speak.

I reached for my sister, the beautiful, trusting creature I had killed, and, as before, my hand passed straight through her.

She was not here with me, she had not lingered behind. She hadn't been here to hold my hand while the preacher talked of my sweetness, my innocence, my sincerity, but I knew what she would have said, the same thing that had been echoing tirelessly in my mind:

We were both dead, my sister had moved on and I was stuck in a strange, painful limbo, my guilt restricting me to this earth.

I again recalled the screech of metal, and the outline of my sister cast by traffic lights, but now I remember more; me, angry with her, my family, my life, and intent on suicide, with my poor little sister along for the ride.

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