The living, the dead and the process of healing.
Why I attended 30 funerals and how did it help.
We can't always remember events from our childhood, sometimes we remember certain events and everything else is a blur.
For me, there is one event from my childhood that I will always remember. The sort of event that doesn't fade with time and doesn't get blurred out in the background, it's ever-present. It happened when I was around 4 years old. I remember there was tension in my home, although the reason for it was unknown for me I knew that it was present just like a delicate mist. We were living in an apartment building on the fourth floor. I remember sitting on the balcony with a pair of binoculars looking out in the distance for my mother. After a while, she would appear in my line of vision and I would follow her with the binoculars right up until she would reach the staircase. Everyday she had the same look on her face. a deep and dark look that was marked by exhaustion and worry. Back then I didn't know what was going on, it seemed strange but I was young and my capacity of understanding such complex feelings was very limited.
When I was around 6 or 7 she explained to me and my younger brother what happened back then. She told us how my father had fallen ill with something that's called depression. She explained to us that was an illness that made people fall into great sadness and because of that people sometimes make bad decisions. She told us how he ran from the hospital and that every day she would go out to try and find him. She did that for about 1 month. She told us how he was found dead by a shepherd in a reservation nearby. My understanding of what was going on wasn't very in-depth but I had the facts to juggle with.
After that, we started to visit his grave with my grandmother. We went there quite often and when we did use to stay there for hours. My grandmother would attend the grave and me and my brother would bring her water from the fountain and run around the graveyard. My grandmother would always tell us stories about different names that were around us. She seemed to know a lot about how different people died. She would say stuff like "He died in a bike accident, so young. That's why you should never get a motorcycle." she often used the stories as lessons.
I know, this all sounds a bit grim and it is but back then for me it wasn't. I remember having fun with my brother running around the graveyard, it was like a playground for us. The only rule was to never step or touch the stones and so we didn't.
One day one of my grandmothers' friends died. She came by our place to say hi and let my mom know that she was attending her friends funeral. When I heard that I asked my mom if I could go too. She said yes and I was off.
In that summer I attended around 30 funerals. Funerals of people I never knew. Old people that died peacefully in their sleep or young people that died in accidents or had fallen ill. I've heard hundreds of stories about these people that left our world and all that was left of them were the stories and memories that would be shared. I became accustomed to the smell, to the look of a dead body, to the crying and the grieving. My grandmother took me to every funeral that she knew about because I asked her to. Sometimes she didn't even know the person but that didn't matter. We would never go past the church ceremony. We only stayed for that and never went on to the burial and the dinner. Every time I arrived home after a funeral my mom would ask me how was it. I would always say it was sad because I thought that's what you should say.
Towards the end of the summer, we attended the last funeral. This one was different because I knew this person. It was a lady that lived in my apartment building. I never really talked to her but I knew her. She died of old age. Because I and my grandmother knew her we went to the burial and the dinner that followed. At dinner, music and people were laughing while remembering silly things about her life. Nobody was crying anymore or they were trying hard not to. When I got home and my mother asked me how was it I said: "It was fun."
That was the last funeral I attended.
Some of you might think it was reckless of my mom to let me do it or maybe unwise. As I understand it that was my way of understanding what happened to my dad. We all have different ways in which we process the events around us. I was determined to find out what death was and how people react to it. Of course, losing a loved one is followed by a grieving period but what I learned is that they never leave us. At every funeral, I heard stories about the departed, happy moments that were experienced. As cliche as it might sound they still live in our memories and stay with us. I used to think that I lost my father but if in those moments where the wound is still so fresh people where still able to laugh about the silly things and share happy memories I realized I will never lose him. He will still be a part of my life wherever I go and will still be a part of everything I do.
So all those funerals thought me that even in the darkest of times there is still room for laughter and happiness.