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A Face Full of Make Up
The news had shocked me. Never in my short ten years of life had I imagined death, or even the prospect of loss. My mother's eyes were red-rimmed and still flowing with tears. My uncles were sitting around the dining table, soaking in the news. I remember leaving the dining room and going to my room to find my teddy bear.
I had never imagined real loss until that moment. Sure, I saw it in movies and television all the time, but it had never struck me personally before. I did not even have the experience from loosing a pet since I never had one. I didn't cry, but went to see my dad. He was working on the garden in the backyard, well aware of the news. Mom had told him first when she came back from the hospital.
To take my mind off the loss, I helped dad shovel the earth and check on the vegetables. He pointed out the finer details of knowing when a vegetable was ripe for picking. The afternoon passed, and I picked some flowers for my mom, wanting to cheer her up. They were white and yellow wild flowers. When my mom saw the white flowers, she started to cry again. I felt as if I had done something wrong, but my dad quickly told me that white stands for death in Chinese culture and mythology. I had blushed in embarrassment, having shoved salt into my mother's wound.
The next few days were hard for the family. I did not go to school; it had let me off since I had a 'family emergency'. In those days, my brother came back from college and helped our family plan for the funeral. Everything was done solemnly. I don't recall having heard laughter once in that week.
Then, Sunday rolled around. The funeral was held at a funeral home of course, and the body was to be cremated. I remember that there were a lot of people crying and dressed in black. My mother, however, had dressed me in a dark blue dress. She didn't let me wear black.
My family and I sat at the front row. I sat between my mom and brother. After the priest said his prayers, my uncle got up to give a eulogy. After he spoke, my mother went up to the stage to give her own. She cried as she spoke. The words came out heavily accented, with choking sobs in between. It was extremely difficult to understand what she was saying. Finally, she gave up and spoke in Chinese, leaving the English to the translator.
My brother was crying as my mom talked. Even my dad was crying. I touched my face. No tears. In fact, I didn't feel anything, not even sadness or boredom. My mom soon came back to my side. Her face was red and glistening with tears. I patted her shoulder, and she looked at me in surprise. The look was not because I was comforting her; it was because I looked calm and indifferent. Nevertheless, my mom gave me a weak smile and hugged me.
The rest of the funeral went by in a blur. Finally, the ceremony came to an end. All the guests rose and lined-up to see the casket. My uncles went up first, followed by my mom, then my dad, then my brother, and then me. When it was finally my turn, I only stared at my grandmother's calm face. The other members of my family had said prayers and cried. I did nothing. However, I noticed things. The first thing I noticed was that my grandmother's face was full of make up. I did not remember her wearing make up once in her life. The next thing I noticed was that she wasn't breathing. It was odd. I had been expecting that she was just sleeping, waiting for me to go and haul her up on her feet, like I used to do. I reached out and tried to shake my grandmother's shoulder. My hand was quickly snatched by my mom, who shook her head at me.
That was when everything hit me, right in the face. The loss suddenly came, and I realized that I would never see my grandmother again. She would never come pick me up from school, bake me her delicious recipes, or watch cartoons with me. She would never play hide and seek with me, take me to the park, or brush my hair lovingly. She would never be with me again. She was gone. Forever.
Up until that moment, I had repressed the feelings of loss, not willing to give up hope that she was not dead. I had wiped her from my mind, focusing my attention on trivial matters. I should have known though. For weeks my grandmother had been battling death. The last time I saw her, she didn't even remember who I was. The stroke, gangrene, disease, and fever had taken her mind.
I took one last look at her. She did not look like she was sleeping peacefully. She looked like she was just gone. The make up stood out horribly on her face, and I realized that this body wasn't my grandmother. I quickly walked away after that glance and went to stand at the doorway.
Still, I didn't cry. As a ten year-old, I was highly immature, believing that it would be cool to not cry at my grandmother's funeral, even though I wanted to throw a fit and cry at the top of my lungs. My brother was standing next to me with red eyes. I was slightly amused, having never seen him cry before. My dad, looking at the ground in shame, was standing next to me. He had hated my grandmother when she was alive, and she had reciprocated the feelings. They were mutual enemies and were always fighting over my mom's attention.
Soon, everyone was done with paying their last respects and we all walked out to watch the casket being put in a car and driven to the cremation house. My family and I followed behind in our own car. The car ride was silent and tense. It was only broken once by my brother, who noticed out loud that I didn't cry. He teasingly called me an 'Ice-Queen', and I gave him a rude gesture when my parents weren't looking.
We finally pulled over at the cremation house. Immediately when I stepped out the car, I heard the roar of the fire and became frightened.
I remember yelling: "Don't put her in the fire!"
My parents had ignored me and watched forlornly as the casket was slowly rolled up to the fire. I watched from afar with horror as the fire engulfed my grandmother's body. The sight was disgusting, terrible, and heart wrenching. Everything that remained of my grandmother was burned away. Even the remaining ashes were probably mixed with those of others' and not entirely hers.
I was the last to look away and go back to the car. Still, I didn't cry.
When Monday rolled around and school started, I dreaded it. Not because of the sad remarks that would be thrown at me, but because I got used to staying at home and being lazy. I went to class with trepidation and shyness. I was slightly scared of what people would say about me. When my teacher greeted me with a sad smile and asked if I was okay, I nodded weakly. Then my friends gathered around me and told me how sorry they felt for me and asked if I were okay. I don't remember replying to them, but going to the bathroom instead.
It was then that I cried. Ironic really. The school had let me off for a week just so I could mourn. But I didn't. Now, first day back and I was crying buckets in a school bathroom stall. The grief overwhelmed me and I cried and cried. Someone was probably sent to check up on me, but I didn't pay attention. My mom soon came to pick me up from school, and we went home.
To this day, I regret not crying at my grandmother's funeral. It seemed to me as if I acted heartless to the person who had raised me since I was a baby. I had spent more of my childhood with my grandmother than any family member other than my mom. I had betrayed my grandmother by trying to act so indifferent at her funeral. I was childish and wanted to prove a stupid nonexistent fact to an imaginary person.
However, the worst thing is: I can't remember what she looks like. All I remember is an inanimate face full of make up.