Author’s Note: This is part of a Testimony of God’s Grace. Although these events occurred when I was a teenager (15-17 years old) the memories are nearly as fresh today as they were then. My style of writing has changed little…the difference is I have had time to practice writing on these blogs and have been directed to share these experiences for “Such a Time as This.”
I stared at the breakfast plate in front of me – picking at food I couldn’t focus on.
Tired and lacking sleep – my eyes were still heavy and puffy from tears. I didn’t want to be here. Almost anywhere, but here. Then again, I didn’t want to think about the next place we would be driving to.
“Kenzel, you need to eat” Dad’s voice said from behind me. “Eat so you can take this”- handing me another pill. “Dad, I don’t need it. I’m all cried out. I”ll be fine.”
I looked up at him as he held the tranquilizer out for me. “Take it.”
“Dad, seriously, please.”
I picked the horse size pill out of his hands and looked at it as he walked away.
Tears formed but at this moment they weren’t because I was sad over having to bury Mom. On top of everything, Dad wasn’t willing to believe I would be ok…that I didn’t need the influence of a drug.
I glanced over at my cousin Pam, a specialist as an RN/ER Nurse. She must have observed the situation and her eyes were still fixed on me.
I looked down in shame. She got up from her chair and walked over.
“You know you don’t need that.”
“I know, I told him. I don’t like how it makes me feel either. But he doesn’t believe me when I tell him I’ll be okay” and I took it. Downing the glass of water to wash away the nasty taste.
“He’s dealing with this the best way he knows how.”
I nodded, still finishing the water.
The tears started to flow, making it hard to see, until they started cascading down my cheeks.
The drive that day to the cemetery went in slow motion. I kept wishing (and hoping) that I could somehow take my hands and stop the car from pressing forward in motion. Each mile got us closer to an ending I was unprepared for.
The tranquilizer on an empty stomach was doing me no favors.
Finally parked in front of the Mortuary, I opened the door and stare at the ground. Stepping out, I look at the building behind our car and think to myself, “What are we doing here? This isn’t really happening…” Walking towards the door, I can feel my body moving but am not connecting that my feet are in motion.
Is the world spinning? I’m not sure I can feel my jello like legs.
Yes, I am breathing.
Someone opens the door I am staring at – I step in. I’m reminded of the sterile smell of the hospital, but I’m sensing an underlying presence. In a hospital, there is still hope. In a cemetery the only hope is your prayer for eternal salvation.
Wait…this is the same place we came the other day to select Mom’s casket. I wonder about turning back the hourglass.
My head slowly turns as my body follows my feet. I recognize no one. I see a chair in the corner and sit down. Maybe if I sit I will sink into the cushion and translate into a different time and space. Someplace where death is unknown. My opportunity to do so is limited…
Dad approaches me, then gestures with the prompt, “It’s time to go in” (go in where? I think to myself.)
I stand – or try to – and realize I’m under “full” sedation now.
“I don’t know if I can make it back there, Dad.” He and my Aunt stand on either side of me and provide their arms to keep me upright.
How ridiculous and embarrassing this is.
We arrive at and pause outside a room down the hall. Inside, there is a silver casket set up. As I recall, Mom asked for a plain wooden box – but the day we came to purchase it they said they didn’t stock that style. Oh – Nooo…Mom is in that silver casket! I stay on the far side of the room.
I watch as people walk in and one by one walk by – then glance. They touch her folded hands, say something quietly and move on. Some say a prayer and then their good-byes.
I am in a blur. I continue to try and edge closer to her casket but fear steps in and I back away. I finally notice my older brother in front of the casket and I go stand next to him. We exchange soft conversation. He leans over and kisses her forehead. Observing him do that makes me grimace…(for some reason I think of Judas kissing Jesus in Gethsemane. I have no idea why)
Even now, in real time I weep heavily as I recall this.
After he kisses her forehead I slowly reach out to touch her folded hands. The hands that held me tightly after waking from a bad dream. The hands that held my hair back when I had a stomach bug, the hands that made the hurt — hurt less — or not at all.
Her hands are like ice. I am horrified. They are hard, cold, devoid of all that makes God’s created body beautiful. Her ash-gray colored skin is unnatural.
This is not normal. I look at her and think silently “Wake Up.” Nothing, no response. In my mind I think, maybe if I say those words out loud, she will come out of this. I whisper “Wake Up – please?” Still nothing.
I cannot believe I am staring at her. I cannot believe she is not breathing. Living. Loving. Laughing. I do not comprehend how this is possible.
I step away and return to the casket a couple more times. It’s not long before staff enter the room and it’s evident that graveside services will proceed. I walk out before they close the lid.
This is sickening.
I do not recall the graveside ceremony. Apparently I took my camera with me that day (for whatever reason???) because I snapped a picture of the group standing in front of her grave. My Dad was front and center of her burial plot. I have not seen that photo in some time. I do not know if I want to see it.
I recall her Memorial service – she had pre-selected her favorite songs to be sung (Just as I Am, Amazing Grace among them) and I vaguely recall the repast (gathering after the funeral and church service)
The memorial service was rough because Mom raised me in church and I attended with her frequently, having started Sunday School there. To be there in her memory and not have her the physically present felt like a radical paradigm shift.
My (future) sister-in-law drove me home following it. Of all things, Home, was the last place I wanted to be. (It really, really hurts to say that right now, too.) I didn’t want to see all these people in the house, I didn’t want to reflect and talk about Mom, in the past-tense…
I wanted this day to be different, but I had no idea how to direct the GPS. So I did all I could do and asked: Please, God, stop this nightmare…
I’ve spent a few minutes wondering what kind of visual I could give you to emulate what I felt that week and the weeks and months to follow – even 33 plus years later.
I didn’t want to focus on an actual funeral related scene (like Steel Magnolias) because I need to convey something on a different scale that was more complex. More encompassing.
So, here it is:
I picked this one because the main characters have a brief warning about impending trouble (my Mom battled her illness for 10 months) and when the first of the unthinkable events happen it is so sudden that, well – just watch, you’ll see.
I also picked Gravity because of the reality that we exist on a planet created by Yahuveh Ahava and this earth is under gravitational force. Out in space all the rules are changed and Ryan and Matt face incredible obstacles and choices in an environment not suited to their nature. The day Mom died…I too discovered all the rules changed and I was thrust into the unknown. Those of you who have lost someone know exactly what I’m talking about.
Part of my healing journey in this Testimony Series is to let Him guide me into His Word (and you as well) scriptures that uncover His Truth amidst the pain, suffering so that I (we) emerge in victory: healed, stronger and healthier. Please seek Him and ask for greater understanding. His Victory – is Ours. By His Stripes, we are healed.