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The coffin was tiny. Much smaller then my Grandma’s. It was white, too, while my Grandma’s had been a dark coffee color. Truth to be told, it looked more like a box then a coffin.
My dad looked at us, his once-twinkiling eyes now guarded closely by dark shadows.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I could see the conflicting thoughts projected on his face as they rushed through his mind. Though I was only nine, I was already getting good at reading people. Anxiety, depression, hesitancy, desperation – it was all written out on his face, as I knew it was on my brother’s, and mine too. We answered him with a striking look that clearly said “Of course. She’s our sister!” My dad sighed. He was good at reading people too.
I watched attentively as he undid the simple latch and lifted the lid on the white coffin centered like a display case on an over-polished table. In the instant I saw her, everything else vanished. My dad was gone, my brother was gone – we could have been hurtling through space and time and I would never have noticed.
She looked asleep. The most beautiful thing I ever saw, Cassie looked like a doll she would have otherwise played with. The cruel irony mocked and jeered at me as I gazed at her tiny body. My first instinct was to touch her, so I did, not pausing to consider whether it was allowed. I lad my hand on her tiny, balled up fist and tried not flinch when I felt how cold she was. It wasn’t the kind of sudden cold you feel when you open the freezer. I wasn’t the kind of soft cold you feel when you plunge into snow. It wasn’t even the “stone cold” kind of cold you always read about in books. No, my sister was a different kind of cold – the burning, un-real cold of reality.
When I stroked her cheek, I swear that for a second I expected her eyes to flutter open; but then the Reality Cold came crashing over me like a wave and I remembered that I would never see her eyes open. I wondered absently what color they were.
I could have stayed there forever, trying desperately to deny Reality Cold and bring her back with the sheer depth of my will. But I knew that that was just vain hope that would never work – and the longer I tried to ignore it the more painful it would be when I forced myself to realize that that I couldn’t pretend forever. I left.
Looking back, I can’t remember if I had been crying. I had been crying a lot lately, so I didn’t notice my tears that much anymore. It’s like breathing. You don’t notice your breathing. It’s just what you do…ist’s constant and unnoticeable, My tears became liketht: constant and unnoticeable.
In the hall, someone stopped me and said,
“Oh Sarah Cate, I’m so sorry for you!”
“Yeah, thanks.” I muttered without looking up. I didn’t see who it was, and I didn’t care either. It didn’t matter. They were all the same. They all said the same thing. “Sorry”. But it didn’t matter. Everyone in the world could be sorry and she would still be dead. I hated sorry – it was just a reminder of how helpless I was.
Reality Cold is a terrible sensation. I hope you never have to experience it. But at the same time, I do. Not because I want you to suffer – but because Reality Cold has taught me things you can’t learn without feeling it for yourself. It taught me to hold onto the things I love as long and as hard as I can, because one day they’ll leave me, no matter what I do. It sounds like the kind of advice people just take for granted – it’s not like you’re going to just ignore the people you love – but once you’ve felt Reality Cold, you know how vital those people are, and suddenly stupid-sounding advice doesn’t seem so stupid anymore. I’m just trying spare you from having to learn that the hard way.
Reality Cold has also taught me how strong I am. At the time I felt weak and broken, but now I realize that that ery weakness has given me a rare and wonderful strength. The strength to keep going, the strength to myself out of the gapin pit of sorrow and grief,. And while I still have days then that pit swallows me, I know I have the strength to keep itform consuming me whole. And if I have trouble prying its terrible mouth open, I’m not afraid or ashamed to get help. To break down in the arms of someone who cares about you is honorable, because it shows that you know that you need help and you are mature enough to take care of yourself and get it. I am strong in my weakness. And if I can be strong, you can too.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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