Burial day: A short story

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Debbie Yuen/Staff

It isn’t quite what I thought it would be, my funeral. It’s sunny. The birds are chirping. It’s a lovely day for a picnic, not at all the funeral weather I expected. I only hear one person actually crying, which I suppose should bother me. There are only a handful of people here whose funerals I would have shown up to willingly, if our roles were reversed.

It’s uncomfortable for everybody here. The coffin does not accommodate me well. My solitary black bed is guarded by bouquets of flowers, bowing down in submission and fatigue. They hang wilting, each lily blackened equally, dying at the same unstoppable rate.

It is in a church. I don’t know where. Columns of pale marble rise like stone from the ash colored carpet, and massive windows harass the mourning with a view of a valley of tombstones. An empty balcony overhangs empty rows, where the people will sit and bow their heads like the lilies in mock prayer and mock reverence. Then they’ll blacken like the bouquets.

“They hang wilting, each lily blackened equally, dying at the same unstoppable rate.”

They don’t come inside until they are called.

The doors close.

The priest comes out. I didn’t know him. I never will now. Everyone is in their funeral clothes. He’s in his work clothes. He whispers to someone, asking how to pronounce my name. He repeats it back, incorrectly, and the other person says, “Good enough.”

He begins the formalities.

The priest is lecturing them about how life comes with an end, like I’m a carton of expired milk. Love conquers death and all that. In his zealous fervor, he fails to mention my name and the circumstances of my death.

Not everyone in the room knew me. The only thing tying them together is their physical location. Somebody coughs. Muffled. Everything is muffled. There are more layers between us all then previously possible.

They sit quietly, wondering what’s for lunch.

“The only thing tying them together is their physical location.”

The priest finishes his work for the day. He makes about a hundred bucks for one dead body.

Then there is a droning. They come to send me off, one final time. The first to address me are people I had hardly known, and they speak with voices empty of any remorse. More whispers among themselves than parting remarks to me. This is a formality.

The kids.

Why.

Couldn’t take it.

Poor sap.

Selfish.

Shame.

Then the recognizable voices.

Sorry.

Miss you.

Then the one who matters. Everyone knows by the way she weeps — she was the wife. Ninety-eight people had come to our wedding. Where were the ninety-eight now?

Through tears, desperation, and choking sobs:

Take care of them.

It’s OK.

Sorry.

Miss you.

Love you.

I am hoisted up. I feel my awareness slipping. Harder to remain present.

Mishandled. Clumsily dumped in the back of a vehicle. We move.

These are my final moments above ground, in the world of the living. Is this it? I thought dying would be “the end,” but I guess the final note is still eluding me. I am as of yet an incomplete melody.

My presentness wanes and intensifies in an inconsistent pattern. (Is this —)

Mishandled. Lowered.

(that good night into which I must not go gentle?)

Between the world of the living and that of the dead.

(Is this —)

I am in the realm of the forgotten, of the undergrowth.

(the Prince’s rest, the silence?)

The weeping is gone. The sky is bright. There is no rain. Today is not a good day for a funeral. Wilted flowers tossed atop my box. Then dirt.

they begin to walk away

Dirt.

they leave me for the last time

Dirt.

they walk above me

too many layers between us all everything muffled

i hear them no more

Contact Edrick Sabaluburo at [email protected].

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