- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
It must be a God-decreed rule that rain falls during a sad event, I thought, gazing up into the rumbling sky. Tiny, freezing drops misted the air around us as the bored-looking priest droned off some clichéd eulogy.
I caught a few words like “she touched the lives of many” and “her friends and family were blessed”, but that didn’t mean much to me. Couldn’t someone mention her amazing grilled muffins, the hilarious impressions? The stories that she told, too fantastic to be true? The jokes that I never understood, but earned a reproving look from Mom when she told them?
My tears didn’t fall. I was never one for emotions, even though everyone told me it was okay to cry. Some people were; you could tell by their red eyes and noses. Mom was one of them, with about a dozen other adults crowded around the mahogany coffin.
There was a pull on my arm and I realized it was over. Mom led me out as some grim-faced people arrived and carried the coffin away. The crowd parted in all directions, heading to their cars and home, maybe having some hot chocolate after a freezing, depressing hour at the graveyard.
We walked past hundreds of tombstones, all engraved with a name and a date. They all represented people who had lived their lives and had families, jobs, aspirations and failures. The only thing left now were clammy bodies, rotting away under the ground. But those corpses were just containers for the people to live in. So where did all those people go?
“Mom,” I whispered, somehow feeling the urge to be quiet. “What happens to you when you die?”
She didn’t answer for a while, and her voice was croaky when she did. “No one knows, but there are beliefs. Many people think that you go to heaven, a place of eternal happiness.”
“So that’s where she’ll be?” I asked hopefully.
“Maybe. Others think that you are reborn again, your soul put into another living thing. It’s called reincarnation.”
“That sounds better, actually. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in some place in the sky forever.”
Mom smiled, although her nose and eyes were still red.
Just before we climbed into the car, I glanced again at the graveyard. “Bye, Grandma,” I whispered.
Next day was bright and sunny. I felt my spirits buoyed a bit as I sat on the porch, feeling a light breeze tickle my hair.
My grief hadn’t abated, far from it, but it was a monster that shied away from light, prospering in darkness and cold. I ached for a person who simply wasn’t there anymore, someone who I’d never talk with, laugh with or cry with again. The loss was completely new to me, and more potent for it.
A flash of movement interrupted my thoughts. My eyes automatically locked onto a small shape, which turned out to be a cat, sauntering towards me without any caution or fear. She meowed once, almost smugly, and leapt lightly up the steps to sit by my feet.
She was the most beautiful animal I’d ever seen, with large, stunning azure eyes, a glistening coat of silvery fur and a small, slender shape. She gazed at me with those twin sapphires and seemed to grin, although that expression is difficult to interpret on a cat’s face. She tilted her head to one side, seemed satisfied, and started licking her paw.
“You look familiar,” I said without thinking, and realized how strange that was. Who did she look like, anyway? I didn’t know any other cats.
She lifted her head, seemingly about to say something important, then proceeded to clean her other paw. I put my hand on her silky fur before I could stop myself, and the cat allowed the contact, nonchalantly absorbed in her bath.
“You don’t have a collar,” I observed aloud. “which means no one owns you. I think I’ll name you Erica, after my grandmother.” Erica ignored me, her head making swooping motions as she cleaned her chest.
* * *
That evening after dinner, I took a notepad, pencil and flashlight out onto the porch. I parked myself on the steps and turned the flashlight on, illuminating a fresh sheet of paper. In a matter of seconds Erica joined me, alerted by the bright yellow beam.