Monday, August 17, 2009

Chronicles Of A 20-something, Funerals and God.

Flowers. Everywhere. Day lilies for days. I can smell them even as I stand in the entrance of the church, looking at all of the People who came to show their respect for my Great Aunt Lib. I look inside my jacket and see that it’s torn. Is it too late to go back home and sew it? For a second I thought I heard it scream back, “YES!!” knowing I was trying to find an excuse to leave.

I’m not a fan of death.

But, I stay put and begin to scan the church. Can God--whomever that is--see me? I wonder what he or she thinks of my jacket. Hopefully I won’t go to Hell for loose fabric. A smile brightens my face as I see my grandparents in the front pew with other Kinfolk nearby, ready to serve them in any way possible, even if that includes wiping a tear from their cheek. Protected. That’s how I feel. Even on this sad day.

My Cousin stomps over to me in her cute dress and long black hair. She’s just as bossy as my grandmother, which is why I adore her.
Cousin: “Okay, so all of the family’s going to the classroom and then we’ll walk down the aisle with the pallbearers.”
Pall what?
Me: “Sounds good.”
I’d rather pretend like I know what she’s talking about than act like I don’t and get an “are you dumb?” look from her.
Cousin: “Ten ‘til 2…got it?”
Me: “Uh…do we all have to do it?”
She gives me a hard look.
Me: “Got it. Ten until 2pm.”
I ain’t trying to die. I can see the headline already: “Lauren Hamilton Killed By Cousin Who Wanted Her to Walk Down the Aisle of Her Aunt’s Funeral.” Hmm, who can break it down for me? Ohh, I know -- Dad.
Me: “Dad, what’s a pale bearer?”
Dad: “Pallbearer. It’s when family members carry the casket to the cemetery. Typically 4-8 people.”
Hmm, good idea not to put me on that job. I'm strong, but not that strong. Fast forward to twenty minutes later and I’m sitting down on the left side with my aunts and uncles while the choir sings. What song…I don’t remember. But, it was a beautiful one.

The last time I can remember being at a funeral was after my young cousin got shot and killed during a drive by in Inglewood. I was maybe 8 years old at the time. Yeah, I didn't know anything about death. So, when I was taken to see the open casket, it blew my mind and heart away. Not in the good sense either. His young, lifeless body totally shook my insides and I ran out, frightened beyond words could say.

But, on that day, I was an adult. That's right. A-d-u-l-t. And, it was time to suck it up and be there for the family. It felt good to be hard and steady in the pew. Looking around and making sure my kinfolk was okay...whatever that means, until the choir started to sing.

It only took a few minutes for me to feel 8 years old again.

The elders started to weep. And, this was something I had never seen. It was like seeing your favorite tree cut down after. Ya know, the one you passed by for 18 years on your way to school.

I glance over at my Grandmother and see that she's crying.

My eyes start to burn.
I look. Again.
My other great aunts and uncles begin to cry.
My eyes burn even more.
My heart...races.
I look. Again.
More tears.

Oh, shit. I just realized -- we're at a freakin' funeral!

Yes, at this sad moment it hit me: an amazing woman is gone from this Earth, from this life. This is when I remembered that this is the woman who brought up her young siblings from a young age when they had no one else to watch over them during World War II. This is when I realized that she meant as much to the community as she did to her own daughter. The woman who took me to lunch as a small child, even when I insisted that she wait until after my talk show was finished. And she always did.

I hear someone sobbing – a non family member—and turn my head to see who it is. A nice looking woman in her 60s.

Me: “Ma’am, you okay?"
She says nothing.
Me: "Ma'am, how did you know my Aunt Lib?”
Woman: “I worked with her and she was my friend of 40 years.”
It took all of her heart and soul to get those words out in between the tears. I immediately wanted to cry as well, for her…for me…and for everyone in the room. But, I didn’t. Instead, my eyes landed on my dad. A rock. Then, my grandfather. Even harder. And, suddenly, I feel stronger. My jacket does not feel so important, nor does the traffic ticket I received the week before. Who knows where or who God is, but I know he or she would say --

It’s okay.
It’s okay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

condolences to your aunt. my uncle just passed away today and my mom is overseas attending to whatever needs attending...we don't have funerals the way you do. it is a much simpler, more private affair. i know i will never see the body. i only attended one funeral in my life where i saw the body in an open casket and it was of a 20 year old ucla student who died of cervical cancer. my uncle had polio and was living in squalor before family members moved him to better conditions not that long ago. even so, may he rest in peace.