Thursday, June 13, 2013

I saw my first dead person last week, or what I learned at a wake for someone I didn’t know

I’ve somehow managed to make it to 27 without actually seeing a dead person. This isn’t to say people around me haven’t died, and I haven’t seen my fair share of horror movies. (I know, that doesn’t count.)

Grandparents, great aunts and uncles, even people I went to school with have all met their ends, but none of which I actually saw in person after the last ounce of life had left their bodies.

Death has been around me, but I haven’t seen it to truly know what it looks like. How heavy the air feels around it. Or how serious others make it. And oh boy, people make death a very serious happening.

Except this instance. This story has nothing to do with seriousness.

One of my close friends grandfather died after being sick for some time. I’ll call her NK for the sake of narration. I knew he meant a great deal to NK, and a couple of days before the wake she is sitting on my back porch having a good vent about the whole experience when I offer to go with her. For moral support, and to show I care.

I could hear my insides crying – Stephanie, Why did you go and do a damn thing like that?!

The next day, I don’t hear from her. I think I’m in the clear.

Thursday morning I get a text with directions and a thank you for coming. Damnit. Ok ok.. 

I talk to my mom to see if she has pointers on what really happens at a wake. She tells me you have to kiss the recently deceased's mouth. I tell her she's creepy and she laughs uncontrollably until reality settles in and she decides to google it. I spend the next 10 minutes listening to her read aloud from this article - Attend the wake of someone you didn't know well

You can find answers for anything on this crazy thing called the  world wide web, and that just blows my mom away to this day. At number 10 she starts to choke on her own words, she's laughing to hard. After she composes herself, but just barely, she tells me she misread it as "introduce yourself to the deceased." 

Oh, my mom.

I work a hellacious day. Run home and strip out of my work clothes while running into the bedroom to put on my wake clothes. I have a hard time deciding between what black top, out of my closet overflowing with black tops, is the right black top.

I throw on a new layer of mascara and I’m out the door.

45 minutes later I’m sitting on the world’s most uncomfortable wooden chair, memorizing the shape of every floral arrangement in front of me. A steady stream of people make their way to say their goodbyes and give the family their condolences. He looks peaceful, and I can't help but smile at the family photo collages strewn across the side of the room.

3 hours later and I’m not sure I have a butt any longer and I’ve only managed to sneak out for one smoke break. Where what used to be nothing shy of a plush hiney, I just feel a negative tingling sensation that creeps down the backs of my legs.

In the (somewhat) hushed silence and whispers that were all around me in my 3 hours of narrowly avoiding looking at his corpse, I made a few realizations.

a.      I’m really great at shutting off my mind and staring off into space while pretending to be incredibly interested in floral arrangements. Particularly the sunflowers.
b.     People are rude, disrespectful, and this is why I don’t have friends.
NK had one of her childhood friends with her, as well as myself for support. It seemed fitting, as this girl actually knew her grandfather, and the rest of her family for that matter. I got stuck sitting next to her for a good portion of my space odyssey, and got very close to wanting to stick a q-tip (it’s all I had in my purse) in my ear until I couldn’t hear any longer.
Her constant repetition of “Where’s Stacey and Clinton?” when referring to what people were were wearing wasn’t funny the first time, or the 20th. Especially after she tried to throw an old lady in a walker into her daytime television bus. I don’t think Stacey, nor Clinton would have appreciated her carpetbag skirt and silk poof sleeve shirt. We weren’t at an 80’s prom.
c.     Funeral homes have some fantastic furniture.
I didn't sit in any of it, aside from my wooden chair that still haunts my backside, for fear of breaking it all. I was fairly impressed with the supply of tissues that seemed to be next to every seat you could think of to sit in.
d.     When I die, it better be a crazy celebration of life, not a somber reflection of my death. Keg stands and joints abound. (Not that I've ever done a keg stand, but I think someone should do one at my funeral, as a nice send off)  I'd also like to breech the topic of photos at a funeral/just make sure you get my good side, and not allowing people to have their cell phones on. There's no need to beat your game of candy crush, put it down for a minute.

That night I had dreams NK’s grandfathers face sunk in while laying in the casket and the world was infested with zombies. All during which I was trying to master the art of floral arrangements. Go figure.


1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your friend's loss :( While it may have been awkward, I think it's better for your first experience around the dead to be with someone you have no personal connection to, because it makes things slightly easier. The first corpse I ever saw was my grandmother's (who helped raise me), which was very tough emotionally and still weighs heavily on me three years later. You were a good friend for going with her.