The Pantomime of Life

October 7, 2008
Have you ever heard the Blink 182 song that has the lyrics, “Sixteen just had such better days, days when I still felt alive.”? I definitely could relate to that whole statement. Most sixteen year-olds spend their time driving, partying, and having fun. Not me, I was at my mother’s wake . . .and oh was it fun.

“Andrew, are you alright?” My sister’s voice was low and concerned. She’d taken this the hardest since she’d been with my mother right after the surgery that led to her death. I was surprised she had even noticed; I was tucked in a room just outside the viewing room; hiding in a dark corner away from the world and all the people.
There I sat in one of those uncomfortable chairs, desperately trying to find something . . . anything . . . to keep me distracted from the faux apologies and cookie-cutter condolences of all the sycophantical flakes here.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Andrew,” my Aunt Margaret said. She was another distant relative whom I had never seen up until today, yet she seemed to know me well. The mortician shook my hand in his and clasped my wrist with his free hand.
“My condolences on your loss, son,” he said, his words filled with morbid amusement, “The Lord works in mysterious ways, so fret not.”
I hated this place. The people were nice, but I knew they were filled with lies; no one cared and, I couldn’t blame them.
My pocket.
It was an avenue of escape. I chose to hide there, to slip into its darkness, to find comfort in its aloofness. What might be there to distract the pain? Upon finding nothing, I arose from my chair and walked across the room to the casket. The room was large and had a vaulted ceiling, and the walls were a pale green, accentuated with a wooden trim.
I was uncomfortable in my formal dress attire. I thought when someone you loved dies, people give you a little slack, but my father had made me dress up to the occasion like it was just another wedding or school dance. I was stuck in the suit that I hated; it was a deep blue dress shirt with black dress pants and the glossy shoes. One irony I found poetic was that the dress jacket, which I loathed at first, had now become my safe haven. I walked towards the silver-steel casket; the thin material irritated my legs, and I found myself grimacing. Still I continued onward towards the almost eerily still corner of the room; all the while an old requiem echoed through my head, filling me with peace.
My mother’s casket, positioned on the far end of the room, was set upon an altar for her loved ones to give their respects. The scent of flowers laden with formaldehyde left a churning in my stomach and a vile taste on my tongue.
I knelt next to the casket and kissed my mother’s head as I offered my blessing. Her once-warm skin, no longer vibrant, was now cold and lifeless beneath my lips. This alone had the power to make my eyes well and my heart race; something told me that if I didn’t escape from this room, I’d faint. I could feel my chest restricting air from entering my lungs.
A man next to me touched my shoulder. He asked, “Are you alright, son?” I shrugged off his arm and moved swiftly towards the door of the room.
I need to get out of here; I can’t take this place anymore.
I raced from the room and crashed through the two large, bronze-colored doors out onto the street. I breathed in the fresh air I’d been seeking. It’s funny to think that the air --thick with smokes and toxins-- was my perception of fresh. There, outside were more “friends” here to comfort me at my darkest time. It was drizzling, a slow yet steady stream.
‘It can’t rain all the time.’ The hell it can’t. For the past four weeks it had done nothing but rain.
Normally I loved the rain, but no pastime or little solace that I had used to lift me seemed to enlighten my dreary mood. I needed to walk, to think, to get away from everything and everyone. I needed time alone for awhile; since that day back in the E.R, I hadn’t had a moment alone. My family had imposed the one thing I absolutely didn’t want to have…company.
As my feet hit the wet pavement, I felt more like myself than I had in three weeks. Walking always helped to calm my nerves. It was better than driving in my opinion. Walking provides a chance to think, to breathe. It allows a person to see the world in a different view. So, there I walked down the street that led away from the mortuary that housed the lifeless--no the soulless--bodies of our friends and families. I’d seen a little gas station on our way to the mortuary, and that was the direction of my trudge. As I walked, I came to the conclusion that those weren’t our loved ones in the caskets; they were merely shells.
A shell, my mother had been reduced to, a shell that meant nothing to me;.
The grief had gone and now I was left with only anger--anger at my mom, my dad, my sister. I was mad at everyone.
How could she leave me? How could she do this to me, leave right when I needed her most? I’m not in denial; I know she’s dead. I just don’t care anymore. She left me, and that’s all there is. But I don’t need anyone. I’ve got only me anyway, and I can watch my own back. I’ll show them all that you only need yourself.




The days, and weeks, and months wore on to become two years. I still held the resentment of my mother’s departure so much that I blocked it out entirely. I would not cry nor feel any remorse at the things I’ve come to say and do. I’d become a mere vestige of my former self. The boy whom I’d used to be had transfigured into a morose man with a hardened exterior. This visage had now become my sole appearance, so the shattered boy who I was inside was protected from anymore emotional trauma that the outside world could cause.
This went on until one day. I was idly walking around, I started to think back to that day. I thought past myself; I took myself out of the equation and looked at the pain that the loss had caused us. We had all suffered a tragedy, and we had all felt the agony of loss. Everyone else had moved on and learned to accept the cold, harsh touch of Death. Now it was my turn. I needed to accept this truth too…that while she would no longer talk to me or listen to me or give comfort to me, she would always be held alive inside a part of me.
From that day on, I never cried over my mother again. I knew that she would always be there with me. I knew that life is often hard and that it was cruel, but as Robert Frost had always simply said, “Life goes on.”

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