Sunday, August 16, 2009

Some Things Just Cant be 1

*I wont put any pics with this post cause seriously...I don't know what sort of pics to put....endure!!!

I realize with 24 hour news service that we are likely to see a dead body or two (or three or four) displayed for our voyeuristic pleasure...if that's the sort of pleasure you're into. Open any newspaper and what ever war is currently going on in the world will have casualties...and casualty pics always sell newspapers.

Bombs go off and torn bodies are scattered like so much confetti across the roads and throughout market places from one side of the globe to the other. The walking wounded holding their bleeding heads or torn appendages with dazed looks shattering their faces...we can turn the channels but there is always another inhumane vision awaiting us. It seems you cant escape mans inhumanity to man even if its your most ardent wish. Death follows more ways then one.

Now, viewing death from the relative safety of our living rooms might give us a moments hesitation in the routine of our day...might make us pause and give thoughts of sympathy or outrage to whatever or whomever it was that caused the latest carnage...but for the most part...that moment is fleeting and we sigh and turn the channel...and get on with the process of living. Death is for the dead after all.

Now and then though we cant merely turn the channel because death decides to visit us....rudely intrudes into our safety bubble and makes its very real presence known...possibly a family member passes...a car crashes in front of us and its occupants are thrown into the road...a pedestrian is run over and laid out on the side of the road as we pass...flashing lights and rubber necking passer byes all that signal that life has passed. For many of insistent need to crane our necks to get a fleeting look at a lifeless body is hard to explain...possibly we are secretly happy that WE are not the ones laid out for all and sundry to view with carnivorous delight...that we can drive on home to our dinners and families and forget the whole idea of death...for the moment. No need to go looking for death when we are fully aware, but try to ignore the fact, that death is constantly on the lookout for us.

I personally have had only two experiences with seeing a "real live" dead person (no pun intended). Both left me devastated and reeling....crying and emotionally torn apart...exhausted afterwards with the constant barrage of images that wouldn't leave the up heaved surface of my mind. The ironic thing about these bodies is that they didn't actually look much as asleep. One was an older man that had passed away after a heart attack...the other was a baby. Listen up...

When I was 14 years old my mothers best friend's father passed away from a heart I mentioned. I had never met this man before...knew nothing about him...but apparently my mother felt I should accompany her to his funeral. An open casket funeral. I was petrified. I had visions of horribly mangled bodies and blood everywhere....horror movie stuff for sure. I begged her not to make me go but she insisted that everyone should attend at least ONE funeral in their lives...make you appreciate living more....or so was her excuse. I wasn't buying it...I was a teenager remember...I was going to live forever. Death would NOT dare come intrude upon my life (unless it was me shooting my father...but that's a different story). Of course I went...who can say no to their mothers?

We arrive at the funeral and everyone is sitting already while the Priest? Father? I'm not sure first funeral and all...was giving the eulogy (possibly). I might add that this family's native tongue was Spanish...and thus...not only was I out of my comfort zone physically....I had no idea what anyone was saying for the most part. Added to my emotionally confused state I might add.

Thanks Mom.

After the eulogy everyone stood in a line moving towards the front of the church. I was not quite aware at that point what we were all shuffling our feet towards...remember...I had never been to a funeral...I figured we were lining up to meet the family...give our condolences and move on.

We were actually...sort of.

As we neared the front of the line I heard a deep moaning sound that made the blood in my body absolutely a wounded animal keening from some dark place in the woods. The moan grew in intensity until it was more of a wail...and I was absolutely sure at that moment that I definitely DID NOT want to confront whatever was making that heart rending sound. My mother would not allow me to go sit in the car and wait for her...I still remember that Mom.

I finally reach the front of the line and I'm faced with two things. An open coffin with a dead man who could be sleeping lying in it....and a large Mexican woman wailing and beating her chest...and holding out her arms to me in anticipation for the hug of condolence I'm meant to give her. WTF!!!

She had copious tears flooding her face making rivers of misery that dripped from her chin like a tiny rainstorm. She wailed in Spanish of which I understood not a single word...but could understand the meaning of none the less...she had lost her mate...her love....her partner....she was alone now...and none of us want to be alone in the life.

Despite not knowing this woman...despite not understanding a single word she said...despite never having anyone I personally know die in my lifetime...despite not knowing the man who lay there "sleeping"...and despite wishing I was anywhere but there....I ran into her needful open arms and cried right along with her. While enveloped in her bear of a hug, pouring out words of condolence of which I cant remember a single word of...she continued to wail and I felt as I were coming apart. Touched by her abject misery that seeped into my skin and invaded my heart...until all hopes of ever experiencing happiness again in my life was like a lost dream of impossibility.

The whole experience lasted only moments until she opened her arms allowing me to move away so she could embrace the next in mother. Shaken I moved forward and came face to face with the coffin...with a man that lay sleeping yet would never ever wake up. There was no broken bones...nothing to indicate that life was violently snuffed from this body and not taken softly and with little fanfare. He died in his sleep....not even his wife, who slept beside him, knew of his death until she tried to wake him in the morning. It seemed so unfair that this man could lie there looking for all the world as if he would open his eyes at any moment, sit up in this coffin with a confused look in his eye...and ask those gathered for whom or what were they gathered...for he had been merely taking a nap and all was well.

Life taken so easily and quietly absolutely horrified me. Ive never been able to fall into sleep with quite the same blase' attitude since that funeral. Always wondering if I myself might "wake up" to find myself in a coffin someday...having been taken by death...stealthily sneaking in upon me while I slept....perhaps dreaming of tomorrows hopes and dreams. It was soooo freakin UNFAIR...I was completely overcome by anger at that point and seethed...holding back my thoughts until my mother was finished and we left the church.

While still crossing the street to her car I finally unlocked my tongue and shouted at her without remorse...."I hope you die long after me mom cause I will NEVER go to your funeral. I will NEVER go to ANOTHER FREAKIN FUNERAL AS LONG AS I LIVE....!!!!!"

She remained quiet until we got in the car and had sat there for a few moments. My chest was heaving as I fought to control my tears of fear and trepidation...I realized that I was fearful of the day I would have to face my mothers body lying in a view her with no expectations of eyes opening and that smile of hers I loved so well. That twinkling look that always shined from her coffee brown eyes. Knowing the life my father forced us into....the constant barrage of physical abuse we endured...I had a deep fear that she would never end up lying in a coffin looking for all the world as if she were asleep. He wouldn't allow such a peaceful sort of death to claim her...of that I was sure. If there was ever a body to bury in the first place that is as I secretly believed I would come home from school some day only to be told my mother had decided she didn't want to be our mother anymore and so had "abandoned" us...never to be seen again.

I lived with that fear of my mother "leaving us" under mysterious circumstances everyday of my childhood. Attending that funeral made it all so much more real for me of the possibility that I would and could lose my mother...while she "slept" beside my father. I was devastated and hated her a little bit for forcing me to go and experience that devastating and horrible fact.

She looked at me and told me that I already knew life wasn't pleasant but because we had faith we could feel joy for that man who had passed....because he had left behind all earthly sorrows and was with our Father in Heaven now. That was the the only thing we should focus on ...that he had moved on from this life onto the next...and I should be happy for him. As if.

It took me quite along time to get over that a matter of fact the image of him lying there has never left me....the image of his wife wailing and opening her arms to me has never left....white hot anger I felt at my mother has dimmed but has never truly left me. I might understand her motives at this advanced age...but still cant forgive her taking me unprepared and completely against my will. I can't imagine ever doing the same to my own children...but then this culture viewing the body at a funeral is not really an option. Anyways...

*to be continued


janice said...

Oh CoolRed, I love your stories but I hate having to wait for their conclusion.

Also, "in this culture viewing the body at a funeral is not really an option"; what do you mean by this? I'm not trying to be funny, I really don't understand. I would appreciate it if you could explain it to me.

coolred38 said...

Janice...thanks for the comment. By viewing the body not being an option I meant that in Islamic/Muslim/Arab society bodies are buried as soon as possible after death. There is no such thing as laying the body out so all can come visit and say goodbyes so to speak....sometimes days after death. Over here...the body might very well be in the ground the same day or the next morning after morning prayers.

janice said...

I had no idea. Thank you for the explaination, CoolRed.

Is there any kind of "celebration" or get together with family and loved ones after the body is buried?

Chiara said...

Hmmm--saving the baby til last! Good narrative technique. Of course, I don't mean to diminish the sadness of the deaths, nor the shock of the funerals.

The Muslim rapid burial is a blessing in some ways--people mourn during the preparation of the body and the service, and then mourn for 3 days (about) after that during which family and friends visit and console. The injunction not to grieve too wildly, to severely, or too long (not beyond 40 days) is a good one, as bereavement is longer to heal fully but the main impact should be lessening by then, and getting involved in life is the best treatment.

coolred38 said... and friends will gather generally at the family home of the deceased....for instance....if a 30 year old man dies...most people will gather at his parents home to offer condolence etc. If he had them.

Generally speaking its not a should be a somber affair with Quran reading and what not...but that tends to only last a few hours...then its basically a social gathering once again like any other.

Chiara...while I can understand getting the body into the ground as soon as possible in most seems rather cruel in another way. I myself dont like to see dead bodies...obviously....but some people need that viewing to truly understand that death has occured and he or she is no more.

Sometimes we need to "see to believe". So we can heal etc.

Chiara said...

Coolred--I agree about the psychology of grieving. I think most people know to rush if there is a death in the family, but since 24hrs is usually the max if there is no autopsy, other delay (burial in a different country) etc some do miss out, as did my hub for his beloved grandfather. In retrospect I would have forced him (yeah right) onto a plane to be there immediately after, but he spent a lot of time on the phone with family while the body was being prepared, and visited the cemetary on the next visit (months later). I'm sure the rapid burial tradition comes from a nomadic culture in a hot climate.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...well I did mention in a previous post that my granddad had been dead for many years...but I didnt really feel he was dead until I visited his grave...sometimes we need something visual to help us along.

Chiara said...

Yes. And then there are the "don't tell the overseas people until it is too late" group--not mentioning any SIL in particular :X :( :S

coolred38 said...

Chiara...reminds me of when I almost died (twice actually but who counts these sort of things) and found out later my own husband did not bother to call my family and inform them of my potential demise. His excuse? they couldnt do anything for you so why bother them with the news. My mother was totally pissed off...she said "let that be HER choice"...not his.

Chiara said...

Your mother was right. And I would add, given that the person near-death is otherwise occupied, you should go ahead and inform anyone not about to die themselves. If we had known how ill his grandfather was I would have insisted, not just suggested, an extra visit that year, and he would have had time to go back on the Xmas holiday etc. It was done to spare him worry, but that misses the point--it deprived him of preparation time, phone time with grandfather, cards, gifts, visits to the grandfather, etc, obviously depriving the grandfather of his favourite grandchild in the process. The SIL (brother's wife) should have dropped her own wanting to be the star of the family for just a little while.