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The Path of Understanding MAG
“So you see?” I dropped my gaze to the crisscrossing patterns of the peeling linoleum and nodded. It tore me apart to see Mommy’s trembling jaw and misty eyes. I cried too, but I didn’t know why.
At the funeral, there were too many people I didn’t know, too many somber hushes and strangled cries. As soon as I was free from the lingering kisses and hugs of relatives I barely knew, I hid in a corner.
I could see my great-grandfather’s body as it lay in his casket, his face like a white stone sparkling under the indigo blanket of sky. I felt a sickness in my stomach, as if I’d just eaten a whole slice of cake in one bite.
I shut my eyes and tried to imagine myself somewhere else. I didn’t belong here. I didn’t feel sorrow like everyone else. I felt fear. I was shrinking back into the shadows, not reaching out to touch him. I was neither comforting nor mourning.
“Child,” a husky voice came from the darkness. It belonged to a man with graying, feathery hair, keen eyes and a hooked nose. He looked like a human hawk. “Come out of there.”
I obeyed, understanding his authority despite not recognizing him. He motioned for me to walk with him. We stopped in front of my great-grandfather’s casket.
“Do you know who this man was?” he asked. His eyes were challenging.
I thought for a moment.
“No, sir.” I waited nervously as the man surveyed me with narrowed eyes.
“Come here,” he finally said. “I’m going to tell you what kind of man your great-grandfather was.”
I bit my lip. A musty smell of old clothes invaded my nostrils. I coughed. Come on, I thought. He’s not gonna eat you. What are you crying for?
“I’m scared,” I whispered, tugging at my sticky black blouse. Black is a sad color. When you have to wear it after someone dies, it makes you feel dead too, because all the heat gathers inside the cloth until you can’t breathe anymore and you feel like you’re going to faint from the effort.
“Don’t be. You know what happens to good people after they die?”
I pondered those words. “They go to heaven,” I said at last, feeling a light fluttering flow from my stomach up to my drumming heart. A cool breeze swished through the air. Somebody had opened a window.
The hawk-man nodded gently and allowed a smile to relax his stern lips.
I was curious to discover why everyone was mourning my great-grandfather. So that I would, one day, no longer be afraid. So that I could, one day, mourn too.