I needed a suit for the funeral. Or a shirt at least. Something posh. The problem was, this was my first death, and I wasn’t the sort of person who would need a suit for anything else. For the end of school prom I stayed at home and played board games with some friends in casual, non-suit based attire. I’m that kind of person. The board game playing, videogame loving, scared of girls sort of person. I’m sure you can fill in the rest of my personality, appearance, and mannerisms on your own.
So I had to go clothes shopping with my parents. And I couldn’t even moan about it, because someone’s mum had died. It was awful.
But eventually we found a shirt for me to wear. No suit, too expensive. Or maybe I just felt too self-conscious in it, I don’t remember. And that’s what I wore when we got in the hearse.
I don’t remember who else was in there except for me and my parents, really, but the sombre silence I was expecting didn’t happen. There was laughing, I’m pretty sure. And for a second I felt okay. My mum didn’t seem too broken (she ended up having horrible nightmares, but that was yet to come), and my dad was looking alright (his bald head was gleaming in the sun, like a perfect oval statue, carved from pure marble), and I wasn’t crying in public (my intense masculinity was upheld, just about). This was okay. My first funeral was going pretty well.
And I remember passing my school, and hoping nobody saw me in the hearse. I kind of didn’t tell anyone my Granny was dying, because I really didn’t feel like talking about it too much. I was really concerned about how was I going to explain it to them if they saw. I guess just tell them the truth; over two months my granny slowly stopped being able to move and breath and in the end live, and I just forgot to mention it. “Sorry” I’d say, shrugging broadly. “She’s dead now though so no worries.”
I remember all those times I saw her lying in bed, where she couldn’t move and I couldn’t really talk to her. I feel so awful, because I didn’t see her enough before she died. I was awkward and scared and lived like five minutes away. But I nearly never went to go and see her, never without my parents. And she was actually properly dying. I don’t think I got that, really. I don’t think I understood that I would never ever be able to speak to her again.
And everyone has a dead Gran. I feel a little bit like I’m not supposed to be effected by it. But it wasn’t real back then and now it is. Now she’s gone and dead and buried (well, burned, but whatever) and I had never really felt that before, someone’s complete absence.
And when we got there, at the funeral, that absence is what everyone else must have been feeling. I remember getting so angry that we, the ‘close’ family, got taken in before everyone else, past rows and rows of people just as sad. We got special treatment, because we were ‘close’. That seemed so wrong to me.
I remember someone I knew, someone who was my Granny’s friend’s son, crying and shaking and breaking down. It was horrible, and the pain he felt was so much more than mine. He loved her, so much. But he wasn’t close family, so he didn’t get to put flowers by her urn, he didn’t get to sit at the front, he didn’t get mentioned by the priest (which was weird. We got shout outs. “Her lovely grandson, Danny! Her beautiful daughter, Heidi!” I mean, thanks? I think?)
But he should have gotten my place. It wasn’t real for me, yet, and I wasn’t feeling the things I feel now. He was. He should have gotten the chance to have his feelings validated, not side-lined. But instead he had to sit as silent as he could and let us have our feelings.
After the service everyone went outside for a bit and looked at flowers. It was a change of pace, but welcome I suppose. He was there, that friend’s son, crying away. I had spoken to him, before, and we had gotten along. I wanted to go over and say hi, tell him I was there if he wanted me to be, tell him we could be friends again, after this. We could be all supportive and stuff.
I didn’t, though. I avoided the awkwardness, ran away from the split second social pain. I’ve not seen him since. I have no idea if he’s okay, I have no idea if he ever had someone to talk to. All because I was a little bit scared it might be uncomfortable.
I should have gone to see her, gone to say goodbye before she died. And I should have gone over to him, and helped him, and let him help me. I should have realised how much bigger and more important this all was than my own anxiety. I feel terrible that I valued my fear over people in real, honest, actual pain.
I hope I’m different, now. It’s been a while, and I’ve said yes to things I never would have before. I’ve tried to help people I know who need it, and I’ve tried to get closer to my other grandparents, the not dead ones. But still, when I see that woman selling the big issue, standing there in town every day, I avoid her, because I’m scared to say hello. I see crowds and crowds walk past without a glance, and I feel horrible, because I’m one of them. Hopefully that’ll change, soon. Hopefully I’ll wander over, and say hello.
This is an edited version of a thing that I wrote a while ago, not too long after my Gran died. Time has passed and re-reading this made me think about lots of things. I still really regret not talking to that guy at the funeral. I liked him, when we spoke before all that corpse business. I think he needed someone.
But I also read this and remember how much worse my fear about certain stuff was. I deleted a lot of the more flowery descriptions of my worries because I think it read as needy and it’s not supposed to be, but I do remember it feeling really big and scary. Every so often I find myself feeling that intensity again, but it’s rare. I’m better at facing difficult situations now, and people in general aren’t so unbelievably terrifying.
And that woman with the big issue on the street? I talk to her now. So yeah, I think past me would be pretty proud of himself. Good job, past-future Danny. Have a pat on the back.