Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bones Of An Idol

The funeral was... one of the hardest things I have had to endure to date.

The night before, I was so nervous. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew I was going to cry, and I almost didn't go. But I would have beat myself up forever if I hadn't.

Getting there was a nightmare. The group with the info on Facebook only had the address for the cemetery, not the funeral home. We (Tanis, my dad and I) drove around like mad trying to find it, and when we finally did I almost couldn't walk to the door. My legs were so shaky with nerves and relief, every step required concentration.

I lasted for about 5 minutes in the funeral home lobby before I started crying. Seeing her friends cry was sad, but seeing her family cry was harder, because they just let it all out. Actually, what really got to me was the music that was playing. All classical, and just the most heartbreaking songs that you could think of. They are not allowed to play music like that at my funeral.

I just felt really numb and weird, like it was all a dream. We filed into the funeral parlor, and there was her casket on this little gurney-type thing. I took solace in the fact that there were so many people there, easily over a hundred. My mum has always said that the sheer number of people that came to her own mother's funeral had really touched her heart.

The casket was maybe 5-6 feet away from me, and all I could think about was how small the stupid thing was. She had been maybe 5 feet tall, and so slender. My necrophobia was tugging at me too, and I felt this horrified sensation creeping over me, knowing that Yasaman was in there, and that she was dead dead dead.

The funeral director was a bumbling idiot. Not only did he pronounce her last name wrong twice, he made a joke about his own sister. "This poem is about sister's. Well, maybe not my sister since she's not very nice, haha." That's great, asshole. Laugh it up to the 9 year old boy who just lost his. He did say one thing that I agreed with though. "Young people today tend to try and distance themselves from death." He said this in relation to the viewing that was to follow.

I knew the viewing was going to be hard. Again, thank you necrophobia, which has plagued me for years. I think I can trace it back to that funeral I was forced to attend when I was 15. Anyway, standing in line to look at Yasaman was really fucked up. I just wanted to scream, run, pull my hair, cry, anything. At one point I could just see the top of her head from where I was standing, and I almost left. But I gave myself a mental slap and steeled myself.

She looked... not like Yasaman. I mean, it was obviously her, despite how much I wished it wasn't, but it wasn't the same. I actually remembered a line from one of my favourite Radiolab shows, about the Afterlife. Robert Krulwich said "I saw my mom just before she died and just after she died, and I thought the myself 'There's a real difference here.' It's beyond pallor. It's a very noticeable, deep absence of something." And that's all I could think about. When I first heard him say that I thought "Well, no shit." But after seeing Yasaman, I get it, and it's feels like it's so much deeper and complex than just a lack of life. Now, I am most certainly not making the argument for souls here. It's just... I don't know how to describe it. I knew this was Yasaman, but at the same time my brain was telling me that it wasn't. Who knows. Maybe I was just in shock.

I'd written a letter to her, as pathetic as that sounds, to leave in her casket with her. Again, I know that's dumb. She isn't going to read it. But funerals and the rituals we go through aren't for the benefit of the dead, they're for the benefit of the living. It made me feel better to know that there was going to be something from me in that casket with her. As I reached in to place the letter by her, I was seized with this sudden longing to touch her hand, just to make one last connection. I was too scared though. It was more than I could bear being that close to her. I'm glad I didn't touch her though. She would have been cold, and that would have made me lose it.

She didn't look like she was asleep. She looked dead. Something happens to your face when you die, and it goes all slack. I guess that's because your muscles aren't holding everything up any more. She just looked all puffy and weird, and I remember noticing that her skin had to much makeup on it, and she had pink lipstick on, which is really bugging me because I know Yasaman would not have been a fan. I wish it had been red. These things don't matter, but it's still bugging me. Also, I could see a cut on her hand, from the accident, and it made me feel so sick. Since I was one of the first people to approach the casket for the viewing, I also had the pleasure of watching every single person walk out after they saw her, some inconsolable. A few aunts had to be half carried out. One guy about my age was doubled over, choking out these heart wrenching sobs. There were two little kids who came out with their mom, just crying and crying.

I saw and talked to Elmira properly for the first time since high school, and that was nice, but what a reunion. I think she's taking this a lot harder than I am. She drove Tanis and I to the burial site (I'm sorry Tanis, I was only dimly aware of you for the entire funeral. I was just so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I kept forgetting you were there), which was nice.

Yasaman's friends carried her casket over to the whole that had been dug for her, and I just remember thinking about how fucked up they must feel. It rained a little bit, which I felt was appropriate, and the funeral director said a few more rambling things. Relatives tossed sand on the casket that was piled high with white and purple flowers, and I was really glad that I wasn't able to watch her family throw their handfuls of dirt (there was a much taller person in my way), because it just would have been too much to see her little brother like that. I did see a few aunts and uncles, however, and the images are burned into my brain. One uncle gently placed his little handful on the polished wood lid, and then bent down to gently kiss it. An aunt held her handful to her lips, whispering something, and then tossed it without even looking, this pained look on her face. I wanted to go up and touch the casket after too, but again, I couldn't make myself do it.

For some reason, everybody had to leave before the funeral crew came and buried her. Like, literally leave the cemetery. I thought that was bullshit. Her friends all left, I knew they were going to a wake/get-shitfaced-because-this-hurts-too-much thing at a local bar, but her family stayed. Elmira's family was close friends with Yasaman's, and since she was our ride out of there, Tanis and I stuck around while everyone lost it. They were moaning and wailing, and at one point Yasaman's mum (who I learned was dying from cancer) let out this crying then started moaning and half-screaming in Persian. Elmira immediately burst into tears, and I asked her what she'd said. "You won't be alone long, I'll be with you soon." was basically it. Her voice is going to stay with me forever.

It was over. Tanis and I went to our houses to change, and then we went shopping, of all things. We both commented on how weird time felt, like the funeral was a million years ago when in reality we had been there only a few hours ago. And now here I am, a week after the funeral and it still feels that way. It hasn't even been a month since she died, but it feels like longer. But from now on, Yasaman's death is going to serve as my motivation for everything. I am going to try harder, I am going to do more, I am going to be better.

Tanis, I want to thank you for the way you quietly put your arm around me when I started sobbing in the lobby. I don't like having people I'm close with seeing me cry, because I want you to all know that I am stronger than that, but thank you for not saying anything and just standing with me. Thank you for going through that whole ordeal with me. You're a real bro. Also, I'm sorry that I can't express my feelings like a normal human being, and I struggle with the "L" word so much. Just because I don't say it doesn't mean it isn't there.

I promise I will begin writing again, mostly because I miss it, but also because I just noticed that I have a new follower. Thank you, stranger, for paying any interest in the things I write. It means an awful lot to me.