My First Funeral is Yours

by Samantha Morgan 

I can’t take my eyes off your body. I don’t mean to stare, but you look so… dead. And you are, but I’m still learning this. This is all very new to me, knowing you this way and not the other way–ya know, alive. It was only a week ago you left me that voicemail, the one where you said, “Hey Sami, I want to make up. I don’t want to fight with you, but you owe me an apology.” I did. I keep this voicemail for a number of years as a way to haunt myself, until one day I lose it by upgrading to a new phone, and just like that–it’s gone. Things come and go so quickly no matter how you try to hold onto them. I’m lucky I got to see you just the other day. That won’t be a thing that eats away at me, that I never got to say sorry or make things right. 

A shiver runs down my spine at how still death makes you. The lifelessness of your body makes me hyper aware that I am still an upright, walking, thinking one. I let out a jump as a hand gently places itself on my shoulder. “Are you Sam?” My gaze travels up the arm of a woman with light, teary eyes. Her dark hair is pulled out of her mascara run face, she’s tall just like you.

Eerily I say, “Yes.” 

“Awww honey, you should know…” there is a deafening pause as she stares intently into my eyes. 

My heart beats a little faster wondering what’s going to come out of her mouth next, I bet she can smell the alcohol on me. 

“Nichole really, really loved you,” she finally says. 

Any amount of control I was trying desperately to keep starts slipping away from me like blood leaving the body. 

“I’m so so sorry I have to meet you like this,” I say as I melt into the arms of the tall woman–your mother. I cry, my head pressed tightly onto her chest. Her body is warm and she smells of a perfume I know of but cannot name. Where have I smelled this before? Maybe it was on you. 

I stay for some time in this embrace, until your mourning mother releases me. She gives me a wink and a smile before making her way into the small sea of people gathering in this open yet suffocating room. How is it that she smiled? All of the voices are murmuring in hushed whispers, and the scent is of those flowers that smell overpoweringly strong. They smell like death, really. I turn back to your body and stare. It doesn’t move no matter how much I ask it to with my mind. I keep thinking maybe you’ll wake up, like you will suddenly wink at me and say, “It’s all a charade!” You liked your little pranks. But I won’t forgive you for this one. 

What am I supposed to do now? My tears are stinging my eyes like little needles forcing their way out of me. No really, what am I supposed to do now? I notice myself gripping your coffin and wonder if that’s appropriate. I shove my hands into fists at my side. When I told my dad that you died, he sounded so sorry. He said, “I’m so sorry, sweetie.” That’s what people say when people die, I’m learning. A line of bodies is forming to my right. I swallow a burning lump of something down my throat. Feelings I’ve never felt before maybe. Our time is coming to a close. Each person in this room loves you and wants to see your dead body. I guess this is normal at funerals. I guess this is it then. This is the last time I’ll see your face, and I wish it wasn’t this one. You still have the best smile. I want to kiss you but I have no clue what the etiquette is for kissing corpses. I haven’t seen anyone else do it. All I want to do is scream but I keep swallowing the burning lump. I wipe my eyes and tell you I’m sorry, because I still am. 

I sit somewhere next to someone, it doesn’t really matter. I’m in a daze. It’s so strange to notice you were here and gone all in the same year. It’s 2009 and you’re dead. A lot can change in a year–a day–a second. There will now be a divide, a before and after, a when you were alive and since you’ve been dead. Nothing will change this fact, I’m learning. Not your mother who is now petting your head as she speaks to you, and not your father sitting a few seats ahead of me moaning–a sound unlike anything I’ve heard from a human before. 

Many major things will happen this year. We will announce our first African American president. Bitcoin will be created. And later a global pandemic will sweep the nation, which I will know nothing about and have no recollection of. You will miss all of these things. These things that feel both big and small, somehow, knowing you won’t ever know them. But for now, I am here in a room with your lifeless body wondering how I am here in a room with your lifeless body. This doesn’t just feel permanent, it is. You’re gone from this Earth and I have to live with it. My own life feels very close to me and like it could slip away in the blink of an eye. I am 20 years old at my best friend’s funeral, and suddenly I wonder if this is the purpose of death–to remember I am alive.

Samantha Morgan is a thinker, a writer, and an aspiring mortal. She is currently studying philosophy at LaGuardia Community College with the hopes of furthermore exploring her passion of writing and self-expression so she may continue on the winding path of opening her heart and mind to the world.

Image credit: “Embrace,” Catherine MacBride. Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.