Life and Death, part 1

I remember sitting on the beat up fold up chair under the funeral home tent the day my mother was buried.  I sat there in the hot August sun in what few dress clothes I owned at Bear Creek cemetery, the sour words of the southern baptist preacher still ringing in my ears as I sat there wondering what to do next.  After people came around and offered me their empty condolences with a smile and a handshake, I finally gathered enough of myself to get up and leave the tent and stand in what little breeze there was.  But of course, my solitude didn’t last as family came to be near me, to pester me with their presence as they often did.  I wanted nothing to do with them.  I wanted to go home and I wanted my mother.

I stood off to the side and watched as the gravediggers and some of my step siblings shoveled the Carolina red clay dirt into the hole that held her casket.  I vividly remember watching my step brother James fill in the hole as quickly as he could and hating him with each shovel load.  We’ve never really gotten along in my entire life, and I’m glad I haven’t seen him since the last family get together I went to.

After that day, it was just my father and I at home.

I remember everything about the day I was born.  I still bear the scars.

Seven months, one semester of college and a new job later, my father died.  I was the first to find out from a police officer who came to my work looking for me.  I still remember his face, strong and stern, clean cut with eyes hidden behind mirror shades.  I could tell it pained him having to be the one to tell me my father was at the hospital, but I thanked him and ran to my manager to tell him I needed to leave.  I remember after being given the news in the reception area of the emergency room struggling to piece it all together.  What was I to do?  What did they expect of me?  Why was this happening to me!?!?  I called my friend Wendy and she picked me up at the hospital to take me home so I could tell the others.  When I saw her in the parking lot coming for the ER door, I ran out to meet her and began to scream as loudly as I could.  I had lost everything that day, I just didn’t know it yet.  We went home and I called his sister, Irene, first.  Being one of his last remaining relatives I thought she’d like to know that her brother was dead.  After a few more calls, we went back to the hospital.  While we were all gathered there, the snake that was his sister had come to the house and went through every single thing of daddy’s in the house.  Once we had completed our talk with the mortician about what to do with the body, we went back home and were greeted by Irene and her greed.  She presented by brother Brad with a stack of papers and proclaimed that my father owed her money.  She didn’t care that he was dead, all she cared about was herself.  Disgusted, I went to my bedroom and closed the door and wondered what to do next.  My job had come to an end that day as well, not that it mattered much.  What came next was an eternity in the dark.  With his death, Irene automatically got his half of the estate, and once that legality was finally over, I was forced out of the only home I had known for 18 years.  I will never forgive that woman for the grief she’s caused in the name of her own greed and self interest, and I hope that if there is a Hell, hers is suitably a miserable one.  Her worthlessness is a topic for another post at another time.  What I meant by an eternity in the dark was, this was when I started sleeping during the day a lot more and staying awake at night.  I remember long nights on the phone with friends who tried to keep me occupied and playing video games until the wee hours of the morning.  Eventually the day of eviction came and I was shipped off to my sister’s house in one fell swoop.  Living with her was a fate worse than death since we never got along as children and we certainly didn’t get along as adults.  But again, another post for another time.

Every day since then, I’ve reflected on what a terrible person I must be for the fates to deal me such a blow.  Often I am told that I’m a good person, but I rarely believe it.  No amount of atonement the rest of my life will free me of this sin.

In the end, they all bowed before me.

A few years, many life changes later, my dear friend Candice passed away due to her own stubbornness.  Diagnosed as diabetic, she kept consuming sweets until it ultimately killed her.  The only mercy was that she died at home with her husband and children in her sleep.  That’s how I’d like to die, in my sleep.  I was in the car with my adopted mother on the way to the funeral home, talking like nothing was wrong.  We pulled in the parking lot and went inside.  As we approached the door, I was invincible.  I was ten feet tall and bullet proof.  Then we opened the doors and all the ghosts from my past were there in disapproving silence.  I looked around the room at them all and we were equally as surprised to see each other I think.  I sat quietly through another bullshit religious sermon from southern baptists, and witnessed the birth of a complete fucking disaster as my dear friend Jason got up in front of the whole room and declared that he was willing to bury the hatchet.  I, on the other hand, was not.  For you see, some of the ghosts in that room disapproved of my sexuality, and Jason’s, but unlike him I had no room for these people in my life anymore.  I didn’t want them in my life either.  I often imagine Jason’s funeral being in the same room with the same ghosts.  I also imagine this is the moment when I finally tell them all off once and for all:  that they were no good, terrible awful excuses for human beings and they didn’t deserve to have him in their lives.  I like to delude myself into thinking that I’m the only good thing in his life, though I know that’s not true.

After the sermon and some words from her father, we went out to the waiting area where I was approached by my ghosts and given hugs and empty apologies.  One even mentioned how I denied her friend request on Facebook to which I curtly replied “people play nice at funerals” and spoke no further.

Came from the gutter, just missed the grave, now looking down the barrel of today

The next one caught all of us by surprise.  Tyler, desperate to find work enlisted in the military and was deployed to Afghanistan.  We never saw him alive again.  The official report was that he was crushed by a hardened hate when it fell off the hinges.  I didn’t dare look at the body at the receiving.  I always hated that part.  I’ll never forget the waxy expressions of my mother or father as they laid there. I prefer to remember people when they were alive.  We gathered that morning at the graveside service.  I had just finished a 12 hour shift the night before and couldn’t sleep knowing what that day held for me.  I sat there in my house, numbly waiting fir the time to come.  I got dressed and ready hours beforehand, already ready to get it over with, already ready to move on.  Goodbyes are always the hardest things, especially when it’s the last goodbye.  This day was the first day I had ever seen my friend William shed a tear or show any sort of negative emotion.  After a speech from his friend Troy, we walked as a group up to where he would be buried up the hill from the receiving room.  Trying to occupy ourselves we talked about him all the way there, remembering all the good times.  Afterward, we went to lunch to eat, which I promptly slept part of the way through out of exhaustion.  I also remember gathering with my family at my house that night and having drinks and thinking about Tyler.  There will always be a bottle of that horrible Aftershock liquor he liked in my cabinet.

Death is not the greatest loss in life…

Once I met a man.  A beautiful, bright, sexy, intelligent man.  I was his possession, his toy, his lover.  He lived in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.  I could write volumes about him.  About the way he made me feel, the way he looked in the sunlight at Longwood Gardens, his jokes, his laugh.  We had a huge argument shortly before he died and I stopped talking to him.  He sent apologies that I ignored.  I was angry and I was through with his bullshit and his lies.  About a week (maybe two, I don’t remember at this point) after his last apology, I got a message from a friend of his on Facebook.

The first time I went to see him in Philadelphia, I met one of his friends who went out drinking with us.  His name was Joe and this would be the only time I ever met him.  Shortly after this meeting, he took an job in New York City and left Philly, and Jeffery, behind.

Joe was the one that messaged me on Facebook.  He sent me his phone number and asked me to call him.  At first I was angry because I thought that Jeffery had conned him into getting in touch with me because I wouldn’t answer him.  Then after I calmed down, I decided that maybe something was wrong and I gave Joe a call.  He told me that Jeffery had died the day before of a massive heart attack while on his way to work.  I often wonder if I was on his mind at all before he died.  Was he at all sorry for what he did?  For the way he treated me before I stopped talking to him?  When Joe had told me that he was dead, I was devastated.  I hadn’t felt guilt or pain like that since my parents’ passing.  I had managed to get in touch with his cousin, Mary Lou, who was in charge of his funeral and such.  I asked her to let me know when and where the funeral was going to be so I could attend.  She informed me that it was going to be in Laconia, New Hampshire and he would be buried in his family’s cemetery, but it wouldn’t take place until warmer months since Laconia was still a frozen wasteland in February.

The months crawled by and the longer I waited to hear about the funeral, the less I cared about going.  Finally, when the middle of summer came and I still heard nothing after trying to get in touch with Joe or his other friend Owen, I assumed that I just wasn’t going to be told, that I had once again been forgotten.  If I ever find the courage or the desire to go to his gave, I know where he is.

…the greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

He asked me “when does it stop?” and the vicious, wrathful part of my mind clasped it’s spindly fingers together and whispered “never” though I opted to tell him the gentler answer of “it doesn’t, you just get used to it.”  Ever since Ivey’s death, Jason hasn’t been the same.  He is just beginning a very long journey that I have been on for years, and I don’t know how he’s going to make it.  Candice’s death took him a very long time to deal with and I’m certain he’s not completely over it either.  It’s killing me watching this all unfold from the sidelines and not being able to do anything to help.

It’s a shame you won’t live.  But then again, who does?