Monday, January 14, 2008

Death is a part of Life

My aunt's funeral was on Friday and it took a toll on my family. Thursday was the viewing and Friday was the church and cremation.

Though, I was quite impressed with how everything was carried out, the whole experience was still uneasy.

My dad gave me the address to the viewing and I was confused. I turned into the pitch black cemetery and my imagination ran wild. I turned on my high beams and drove through the poorly paved road...the sprinklers were on and I drove passed graves in mist; doors locked and my knee shaking nervously. I finally found the exit and discovered that the viewing was across the street! I fixed my stare on the road and managed to get out of there.

There were candles passed around at the viewing with my Aunt's name and on the bottom was a quote, "life is too short, buy cute shoes." Live life to the fullest seemed to be the theme and as people made eulogies, I realized that we were celebrating her life rather than just mourning her death. And really, that's what it should be about. Her daughter told a story about her mom and her lip did not quiver for one second, nor did a tear fall from her eyes. She was there to remember how wonderful her mom was not to cry for her loss. Her smile was strong and her speech was simple.

As people gathered to take one last picture with my Aunt, I noticed that it took a tragedy to get all the 8 siblings together. It's difficult with a large family. I took a picture of all the aunts and uncles and was startled when I noticed a white circle around the oldest sibling:

Could it mean something? I was reminded of my grandma's funeral last year when a light shined on her picture. Could it be that spirits reside in light? Possibly. But my camera was dirty that day.

Afterward the cousins went to Santana Row and the next day was the mass.
I did a reading and carried the coffin by my uncles in and out of the church. My other Aunt did a reading and her nerves caused to her mispronounced words, "and let God protect the hoes... whose..." her daughter snickered.

At the cemetery, I did not know what to expect...
In the cemetery was a cottage-like building that reminds me of a fairytale, but in the back was something else. I wondered what that loud buzzing noise was and discovered that it was the incinerator.

The prayers were made over the loud buzzing, but barely anyone could hear. My aunt's coffin was wheeled to the back of the "cottage" where the walls were made of steal. Her close family lined up into the cold room and held each other tightly. I was confused to why were following her coffin. My cousin in tears shouted, "DONT LET GRANDMA SEE!! BLOCK HER!!!" They turned her around to face the clouds and I got nervous... I could not believe my eyes... why am I here?! The metal door open like a garage. The worker pushed the coffin forcefully and her coffin slid swiftly into the incinerator until it hit the back with a thud. My mom let out an ear piercing shriek and I held my stomach because I felt like throwing up. I could not believe I just witnessed that. Like dropping a coffin into the grave, I felt like my aunt's body was just thrown away.

As people cried profusely, the worker pressed green and red buttons and stated, "it should take a couple of hours." I held no one, I rushed outside for air and was jealous of the people who stayed behind. My cousin from SF felt the same way, "there was something seriously wrong about that... I didn't know what I was signing up for." He was asked to be one of the pole bearers (?) casket carriers last minute.

Cremation no longer seemed appealing.

I was worried about my brother and my younger cousin, but my older cousin said to me, "I think it's good for them... to experience this. It will ground him." I thought I was traumatized for a life time, but the reception made me forget. My aunts and uncles and older cousins performed songs dedicated to my late aunt. My uncle accompanied them with a piano that was missing keys found in the shadows of the venue. "This is for you!" My dad exclaimed as he sang a French song to my Aunt's picture.... "I love you..." my dad was done crying for his sister.

Earlier in the day Michelle offered me her soda. "Don't worry, I don't have any germs... just leukemia." She chuckled at her comment and I gave her a half smile. She reminded me that life is too unpredictable to be so serious... and we need to appreciate what we have and be optimistic and positive. At the end of the reception, my cousins gathered around for a picture. We have each other, we were celebrating life and experiencing death as just another element...

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