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Questions Without Answers This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I wasn’t allowed to call Gran’s funeral a funeral. The term “funeral” was too funereal, said my dad. Go figure.

All the women at the memorial looked the same: beehives and rogue from the 50s. Their southern accents stuck like molasses in the heat. The house was too small for everyone.

For a couple hours they milled around. A rotating squadron—like clockwork from patio to yard to living room and back again. And when they pulled out of the driveway, speeding on the one-lane road in their Oldsmobile’s, I was a little relieved.

That night we slept on the pull out couch and the six of us boxed and bagged and folded everything. Out from the highest branches of the closets came misshapen sweaters, slippers without their mates, and various half-finished knitting projects that had seen better days. From the kitchen, glasses and mugs and more fine china than the Queen had herself was nestled in bubble wrap, while the entire contents of the medicine cabinet went into the trash.

I could barely lift the black hefty bags with yellow strings. Three sat in the backseat, like passengers without faces. The man at Goodwill didn’t ask what had happened. He probably saw this all too often. The bones of beds and recliners littered the donation parking lot. We left our bags with the rest—baby dolls with one eye, James Patterson novels, and clocks: the souvenirs of a lifetime.

Gran wanted to be cremated, and her body was. But the body of her life, the stuff of her existence was left in the graveyard of the Goodwill store. She didn’t even get a headstone or a priest to say a few words over it.

She’s in a better place, said my cousin simply. She’s watching over us.

I thought that if Gran really was in Heaven, she’d have better things to do than hang around watching all the bad stuff that happens on Earth. I imagined her sitting on a cloud somewhere with a telescope and a lap full of quarters like she was visiting the Empire State Building or something.

I wondered if my cousin really believed in Heaven, if my parents did. But if everyone who claimed to believe in Heaven really did, people wouldn’t be so scared of death.

But that’s not the kind of question you can actually ask people, or the kind of question they’d actually want to think about. It’s like when you start imaging the whole universe—unquantifiable space and time expanding infinitely and always. You start to feel uncomfortably small and suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. Not your shoes or words or air. Think about air. Think really hard. It’s scary, isn’t it?

Usually we try not to think too hard about questions without answers. I don’t know how we can expect to find answers, though, if nobody’s thinking about them.



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