Two Hundred and Eighty Seven Days

April 9, 2010
By , Blue Springs, MO
My great-grandma died today. She almost made it to one hundred. Meaning she was two hundred and eighty seven days too early. The nursing home people said she went "peacefully" with an "easy passing." I don't know what they mean. I don't think any passing is an easy one. How can it? Death is a crime. It is the ripping of a soul from this world. I don't know how anyone can call that "peaceful." Maybe being around all those decaying people hardens a person into thinking death is as simple as potato being eaten, a leaf being crunched. I do not want to be hardened like that ever. I hope I cry for everyone I know who dies. I hope my heart will keep on feeling until it's my time to be ripped away.

I'd never seen a dead person before. I don't like the word "deceased". It sounds slimy in my mouth and runs out the corners. I thought it would be scary maybe, I don't know why, maybe I thought that the soul would hang around and grab me thinking "I'll take her too, while I'm at it!" I had stupid thoughts like that on the long drive to the funeral home. Not home, a building full of dead is not a home. It's just a building. I'm rambling now, I guess I have too many things I don't argree with that don't matter at all. Maybe all these words that I think are gold are really just trash and poop that I'm filling up this paper with. I'll stop. I promise.

I got there, to that place where the dead people are kept til they're buried and I went inside with my black-clothed whispering family. It didn't smell like I thought it would, but then, I don't know what I expected it to smell like. Dirt?
It smelled like coffee and dead flowers. Smothering my lungs until I finally just breathed out of my mouth. The room looked like a living room. It made me feel like I did when I was ten and had just moved. I accedentally walked into the wrong house and the people inside were sitting there having dinner and then they all looked up and froze just like that with their forks half-way in their mouthes and their sentences chopped off and hanging there in the air and all their faces had a crazy look that said "Who are you?". I almost expected those same people to be there in that real-looking living room still sitting there maybe reading this time and to say "You again?". But they weren't. This time there was only my dead great-grandma in her casket laying there with a pink light around her. I walked up there terrified but knowing I had to go see her, I just had too.
She was there, just laying there all prettily made up with lipstick and everything almost like she would sit up at any minute and say to my teary eyed aunts "Well, what are you all looking at?". But the longer I looked at her the more I could see that it really wasn't her there, and I thought for a very small terrifying moment that maybe it wasn't her, maybe it was me, all withered and dead. Stop! I told myself. Just stop. So I just stood there staring at that person who wasn't me. It was more like a very big doll laying in a box ready to be played with or a picture of a person frozen in time.That's what she was, frozen. She would never be younger and she would never be older. She would always be two hundred and eighty seven days younger than one hundred. My family was leaving now after they had all sniffed quite regularly and firmly decided she looked very nice and "peaceful." That word again, "peaceful". She is dead, I thought, her body, that soulless thing in that box cannot be anything, but I didn't say a word. That was probably very smart.
Now everybody patted her hand and the sooth marble casket and started to leave one by one in their itchy looking black suits. So I reached over and touched her pale wrinkled hands one last time. I thought they would be cold but they weren't. She didn't feel cold or hot or anything. She was just there. Like a peice of furniture. It was like touching a chair except that a chair would not have freshly painted nails.
"Bye, grandma."

All the rest of the day at the funeral and reception full of people in black that I did not know (who some I suspected only came for the food), I kept hearing them say how she would always be with us. I thought about how crazy that sounded. With us? Hadn't these people just seen her being lowered into the ground and covered with dirt? That's pretty much as gone as I figured gone could get. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered, maybe not? Maybe she was there after all. Not a ghost I mean. Not even like a tiny happy feeling in our hearts to carry around. I mean she was there. Like really there. She was in the blood cells that flowed through my veins and in all the nice memories people were telling about. She was even there, in all the pictures, there frozen in time with us leaving her pink-cheeked smiles and every good thing she had done, every life she changed that was still living, she's left all that behind. That was great-grandma. Not the wax doll in the casket but the things still there, with me. In me.

"Hi, grandma."





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