Before you start thinking that I’m some sort of psycho who has a split personality or something, I think that you should know that the bad memories haven’t suddenly disappeared. They’re all still there, swirling around in my head. Where else would they be? After all, they’re a part of me. I just have to make sure that I don’t let myself become obsessed with them again. That’s all.
Not that it isn’t hard sometimes. With Mother’s Day coming up next weekend, it has been a little tough the past few days. But, I’m dealing with it. And, to be quite honest, I think that I’m doing a pretty good job.
Sure, I’m still remembering a lot of things. And, a lot of what I’m remembering is sad. But, they’re only memories. Right? They can’t hurt me. At least, not if I don’t let them.
My mother died. We had a funeral. And we buried her. That’s what you do when someone dies.
I only wish that my memories of that day were a little less troubling. I’m stuck with images of coffins, and corpses, and cemetery plots, when I’d rather be remembering flowery words and loving tributes. Why is it that I can’t remember who spoke at my mother’s funeral service, or what anyone said, but I can remember every single moment relating to my dead mother’s burial?
My mother’s funeral was a “closed casket service.” However, time was set aside in advance so that the family could have a private viewing of my mother’s body (before the coffin was permanently closed).
Early on the morning of the funeral, my family gathered in a small room in the back of the funeral parlor. After what seemed like an eternity, the funeral director began ushering small groups of family members into another room so that they could view my dead mother lying in her casket. When it was finally my father’s turn, he looked in my direction and assured me that he wouldn’t be long. He clearly had no intention of letting me see my mother’s dead body.
However, just as my father turned to follow the funeral director, my aunt grabbed his arm. She insisted that I be allowed to view my mother’s body with the rest of the family. She made me feel very grown up.
“If she thinks that I’m old enough to see my mother in her casket,” I remember thinking, “then I must be.”
And, although my father expressed reservations (“I don’t think that it’s a good idea….”), my aunt insisted, and I made my way to where the funeral director was standing. Unsure of how to proceed, the woman turned to my father, who reluctantly nodded his assent. And, then, shaking her head in disapproval, the funeral director led me into the other room and over to my mother’s dead body.
Big mistake. Big, big mistake.
That is not my mother lying there,” I remember thinking to myself, “What have they done with my mother?”
But, it was my mother. And, after the funeral service was over (the funeral service that I can’t remember), we all drove over to the cemetery to bury her.
I had never been to a cemetery before, but I had seen them on television and in the movies. Imagine my surprise when we drove into the gates of my mother’s final resting place and there weren’t any headstones. Don’t ask me why there weren’t any headstones, because I don’t really know why. All I can tell you is that the nondescript sameness of the plots made the place seem even more depressing than I’d expected it to be.
We all got out of our cars, and we walked on a mat of fake grass (that had been placed on top of the real grass) over to an open-sided tent. Under the tent were a few chairs, and a big, deep rectangular hole in the ground. My father, brother and I sat in the chairs, and the crowd of mourners gathered all around us. The Rabbi talked, but I didn’t listen.
And, then, my mother’s coffin was lowered into the ground, and someone led me and my little brother over to the hole. They placed a shovel in my hand – a shovel with dirt in it. And, then, someone (I don’t remember who) made me toss the dirt on top of the coffin.
I can still hear the sound of the dry earth as it hit my mother’s ugly white casket and slid down the sides into the darkness below.
They made me help bury my mother.
Maybe it’s some sort of Jewish tradition, I don’t know. But, I do know that you shouldn’t put a child through something like that without at least explaining what they should expect first.
I mean, I buried my mother.
Afterward, we all went back to my grandparents’ apartment.
Later that night, my friend Natalie came by with her parents. The two of us sat out on my grandparents’ terrace and talked about nothing, and Natalie ate kippered salmon. I am never, ever going to eat kippered salmon.
Meanwhile, my brother spent the evening wandering around the apartment showing everyone his stuffed animal, Eeyore. The doll had a red bandana tied around his middle, and my brother kept saying, “Eeyore has an injury. He’s sick. It hurts. He’s sad.”
Me, too, Eeyore. Me too.