I still don't think I understand death.
I don't remember when my grandfather died but I didn't like him very much. His kisses were wet like a dog's licks and his mustache would scrape at my cheek. He would coo and caw around me which was always a sight because he was a big man, the type of man who was in charge, who knew exactly what needed to be done. My grandmother and aunt would trail behind him, subservient and meek. So meek in fact, that I remember them shaking as they held me, like willow trees trying to a baby in a windstorm. I couldn't trust them.
When grandpa died, I remember being the first one to see him at the wake. I remember running ahead of my parents, curious to see a dead body, wanting to get a look before anyone else. No one stopped me, I don’t think anyone even realized I was there. His body had been placed at the end of a long carpeted hallway. One side had these tall windows that looked out into a courtyard. I remembering entering the room and thinking how cold and windowless it was. In the center was my grandpa, or what remained of him.
They had laid out his body, frozen, and still in his hospital gown on a funeral bed. I couldn’t help thinking how small he looked, how shriveled. It was as though a vampire had drained him. Sometimes when I think of his body, my mind blends that moment with the time I saw him in the hospital, shrunken, weakened, rasping on his last breath. I cracked a joke, he exhaled a laugh, as though his lungs were filled with smoke. I read the bible and when I looked up for some confirmation of him listening, deathly still and waiting. My mom assured me that he loved it but that made even less sure that he was there.
After looking closely at the corpse, I looked around for a seat. I knew this would take a while and I was already bored. I wanted to read. The only seat was a small floral couch in the room with the corpse. I remember sitting in the corner and just watching as people began to trickle in and weep. Watching as black women in black dresses wept tears as white as their pearls, clutching to the frozen hands, the shrunken body, the bald head, clutching, clutching, like leeches to their host. It was an ugly sight.
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