The memory still haunts me.
A narrow hallway.
The only sounds are shuffling feet,
the rubbing of clothing as we walked in a line, like soldiers marching into battle.
My head bows under the strain of grief. My words are futile as I weakly attempt to avoid the inevitable. “No, I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”
Powerless to walk on my own.
My husband holding me up on one side. A pastor on the other.
Why is it called a viewing anyway?
Why do we “view” the body? Isn’t it more like “looking to see if they really are dead”?
That was certainly what I was looking for.
Was it really going to be my brother lying there in that coffin? Would I see a glimpse of the rise and fall of his chest?
What would he look like? How would I react?
Would I see the scar? Would I see the evidence of what he had done to himself?
I didn’t want to see it.
Was I going to lose control? Would I embarrass myself?
I actually had those thoughts.
How could I think that at a time like this? Who cared if I embarrassed myself? People expected me to fall apart.
Concern of my outward appearance penetrated the grief.
Who was I kidding? I couldn’t control my emotions.
The pulsating, golden din of flourescent lights pulled me to him.
Where was he?
Such a large room for one person.
Mirrors? I didn’t need a mirror to see that my face was blotchy red, eyes swollen, nose running.
Along the back wall.
His 6’4″ frame giant-like in the casket. It was him. His mop of curly blonde hair. His deep-set eyes. His glasses. His large and callused cello-playing-hands. I recognized the tux he wore and his bow-tie. He had performed many a concerts in that uniform.
I kept my distance. Never approached his casket. I was afraid to get too close. Afraid of the body lying there. I fought an urge to avert my gaze. I didn’t want to see him that way.
It was him. But, he wasn’t present. His spirit was gone.
No, he wasn’t going to rise up and rejoin his family. No, I didn’t catch a glimpse of the rising and falling of his chest. I tried, I really did. I tried to see life in him. But, life had vanished from his physical shell.
Viewing him in this state confirmed for me the dark reality. He was in fact gone.
I am glad I did. But, it still haunts me.
However, Life was present.