The first funeral I ever attended was my great grandfather’s. The ride to Oklahoma always seemed entirely too long and boring; everything is flat out there. The sunsets make the state seem more beautiful than it really is. It was late April, and my grandfather had almost turned 100.
Since I was so small, my mother didn’t want me seeing the body. She was afraid the pale, wrinkled shell that lay in the casket might haunt me. It was the summer after The Sixth Sense had come out, and I was infatuated with ghosts. So, my cousin and I passively watched the funeral from the backseat of my mother’s car while pretending to point out the ghosts we saw around us.
The funeral didn’t look anything like the movies: no one in our family wore black and they weren’t decked out in their finest pearls. It had rained the day before, so as the boys walked through the graveyard, their boots splashed mud to the bottom of their Levis. A line of plaid button down shirts bowed their heads as the preacher presumably began to pray. I cried harder during the funeral scene in My Girl than I did at my own great grandfather’s funeral. Death had always been a distant concept to me, much like the relationships with people whom I had lost.
My friend died this week. The last thing I said to him was a stupid joke about this Amazon wish list in which they referred to Twin Peaks’ fans as “Peak Freak.” Pretty rude that Amazon called you a freak, I said. Over the last two months, I’ve gotten used to hearing his opinions on everything from movies, video games, music, and books. For the past month, we nearly talked every day. He would share his music or we would talk about the book we were reading. The week before he died, I bullied him into ordering a book by one of my favorite musicians — John Darnielle. To be honest, he told me, John Darnielle is sometimes too raw for me, too real.
He made me feel smart and important. He listened intently and thoughtfully to everything I said. I’ve never had to experience death before until now. When I asked him how he was doing navigating the world without his mom — she died of cancer a year prior — he told me he never knows what to say because he doesn’t even know where to start. I thought I understood that when he said it, but I didn’t really, truly internalize it until he passed.