Back when I was alive, I hated funerals. Now that I'm dead, I can appreciate them a bit more. Maybe it's because I enjoy watching people get the last goodbye that I never had- or maybe it's because I've been stuck in this cemetery for twenty years. Either way, my views were vastly altered for a long time. It wasn't until the day I saw you at the last funeral you would ever attend, before your eventual death in the upcoming months afterward, that my opinions began to change all over again.
I wasn't expecting you to be back in the cemetery so soon, even though it shouldn't have been a surprise considering how many people you've buried in your lifetime. You had buried your wife the decade before this one, when you were twenty-four, recently married to the girl you tried to convince yourself you were straight with, and had a newborn child to take care of all by yourself. You buried your sickly mother just two years ago, after her enlarged heart finally gave out. The day she died, you had just turned thirty-six- which is the age I would have been if I were still alive. Now, at thirty-eight, you're burying the last living person in your family- your son.
I would have watched as the boys who worked for the groundskeeper digged the hole for the casket to go down into if there weren't another funeral going on at the time with someone I knew who was being buried. In the front, righthand side of the cemetery- the opposite side of your and my family's plots- an urn-sized hole in the ground was being surrounded. There were adult children, grandchildren, students, cousins, and all sorts of friends and acquaintances clad in black raincoats to protect them from the drizzle as they were saying their final goodbyes to the person in the decorated urn.
Even through the tears and sniffling, it was apparent that this newly deceased person was truly cared for by all of those who attended his ceremony. If he were here to watch the crowd, he would have been grinning from ear to ear.
After the lovely service ended, I decided to wait a little bit longer before heading to my grave stone. It wasn't until after my freshman year English teacher was literally six feet under ground that I went back to my grave in the plot next to your family's plot. It was only then that I saw you, face haggard, with fat teardrops streaming down your cheeks, which somehow managed to blend in with the splattering raindrops hitting everything below the sky.
Unlike at the first funeral I saw you at after I died, I didn't try to reach out to you, to try and comfort you in the only way I knew how. After watching you fall to your knees from my touch, back when I was newly dead and extremely curious, I knew that my hands would go through your body, leaving a cripplingly freezing shock in its wake. I didn't want to make things even worse for you, so I kept my arms crossed over my scrubs-clad chest, hands tucked away under my armpits.
After the pallbearers in black raincoats came to place the black coffin holding your only child on the damp, spring grass, they all went to the foot of the casket to wait. The Reverend and you came up the hill to stand under the shade of the cherry-blossom tree in my plot, ready to say a final goodbye to the boy you never expected to lose so soon. I couldn't make myself look away as pink poperee rained gently into the grave and onto the elderly reverend, the young pallbearers, and you.
I wished that I could have been there for you, physically, emotionally, or otherwise. I wished with all my heart that I could have wrapped my arms around your waist the way I used to, and leaned my head on your comfortable shoulder, and told you that everything would eventually get better. Maybe it wouldn't today. Maybe it wouldn't this week, or this month, or this year, or this decade, but things would get better, eventually.
I hoped that somewhere, deep in your heart, that a piece of me was telling you this when I was physically unable to.
It was only when the Reverend, under a huge, black umbrella, began his speech that I tore my eyes away from you to find a smallish figure behind you. The figure looked young, but old enough to know what was going on. Maybe thirteen-ish? Fourteen-ish? When I stepped closer to get a better look at the figure, I found someone who I assumed was a much younger version of you, trembling from the harsh wind, and the heavy rain, and the shock of viewing his own burial service.
"I-is… is th-this m-my… my f-funeral?" he stammered out, his thin arms crossed over his bloody, and possibly broken, ribs. He sniffled, and it took everything in me not to rush over to him, take him in my arms, and tell him what I wanted to tell his father- that everything would be okay, maybe not soon, but eventually.
"I'm afraid so, kiddo," I started off, hesitantly stepping closer to the young boy. He sniffled sadly again, pushed a longish brown wave of hair behind a pale ear, and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
He tore his eyes away from his father to glance at me. I could feel his dark eyes on me, almost as heavy as yours were the last time you saw me alive. I tried to pretend that the boy's eyes weren't boring holes into the back of my head the way yours did, even though it didn't work. I knew that I had to cave in at some point, even if I didn't want to.
Eventually, I made myself look at the kid, and when I did, recognition crossed his face. "I-I remember seeing you in a picture frame on the mantle of the fireplace at my house… or w-what used to be my house, I-I guess. I think my dad called you… Kevin, I-I think it was? O-or… Or maybe Gillian? O-or maybe it was something else, like-"
"Glenn." I nodded and looked towards my, forever worn, faded black socks and hospital shoes. "My name was- or is, I suppose- Glenn."
"Oh." The boy turned back to look at his casket, still fidgeting with the orange speckled hoodie he must have been wearing when he died. Instead of looking at the coffin with the dead boy I never got the chance to meet when he was alive inside, I looked back towards you. I couldn't keep my eyes off of you; the one and only love of my life, and the father of the kid standing somewhat near me.
Your hand that was resting on your son's casket fisted, trembled, and opened up, laying palm down against the black painted wood. "Michael… Mikey, my God, I never wanted this to happen."
The boy next to me moved closer to you. I hurriedly stepped towards your son- Mikey, I reminded myself- and pulled him back gently by the shoulder. I told him, "You should wait."
I don't know how you managed to, but you continued to speak to the boy you didn't know was there the whole time. "You were supposed to live a long, and full, and happy life, kiddo. You were supposed to go to college, fall in love, tell me that I wouldn't be allowed to live in a retirement home when the time came when I couldn't live on my own anymore. You were supposed to get a chance at living, and now all of that's taken away by that stupid drunk who couldn't see you on the sidewalk when he swerved."
The boy in my arms pushed me away and ran to you, going through you and into the coffin. When he passed through your body, the shock of cold was so strong that you fell to your knees, your arms holding your shaking body together.
He looked down at his ghostly form, sticking out of the wet, petal covered casket. When he started to hyperventilate, gasping so loudly I was convinced the living would hear him, I went to him, leading him out of the coffin and away from you.
We both turned to look when the Reverend asked you if you were ready to put your son to rest. The sound you made was a cross between a laugh and a sob. "I'll never be ready, but I guess I have to be."
I hesitantly lead your son back over to the coffin as the pallbearers lifted up the casket and placed it in the ground. It wasn't until after you stood up and started walking away that the pallbearers began shoveling dirt onto your son's grave.
I was completely shocked when you didn't go over to your, thankfully long gone and moved on, wife's grave. Instead, you went over to my tombstone for the first time in sixteen and a half years. I didn't know what you were doing there, or what you were going to say, but I prayed to the God I hadn't believed in since I died that you would tell me what was on your mind.
You fell to your knees in front of the tombstone that was purposefully placed, specifically by you, in front of the beautifully flowering cherry-blossom tree. I remembered that you wanted there to be some sort of beauty, some sort of life there with me so I "wouldn't feel so alone surrounded by so much death."
Mikey followed you, sitting behind the rock in front of you as you stared at the water covered stone. I sort of surprised myself when I followed your son, plopped down next to him, and wrapped an arm around his frail, shivering shoulders.
What surprised me even more was when I started to speak to you, knowing that you would never hear my ghostly words
"My love, I know that I wasn't here for your son's life, but I'm going to make up for it," I began, looking into your brown, tear-filled eyes when you raised yours to find my blue ones, even though they were worlds apart. "Just because I wasn't there when he was alive doesn't mean that I won't be here now that he's dead and I can make up for being gone for so long. I swear to you, to the God I'm still trying to believe in, to anyone who wants to listen that I will watch over your son until you come here to join us when you die. That way, he'll know what to do to help you if…"
I had to say it out loud, to make it real for me. "... if you don't feel comfortable asking for help from me."
You looked up at the pink flowered tree, closed your warm brown eyes, and sighed deeply. "You two are so alike, baby, it's crazy. He was so smart, and kind, and loving. The only difference was that he's straighter than a ruler, unlike you or me."
He chuckled, looked down at his hands in his lap, and shook his head. "You would have loved him so much, baby. I wish you would have got the chance to meet him. I wish that your stupid, cancer riddled body could have stayed alive long enough for you to meet him… Then again, if you were here, I never would have dated Mikey's mother, and we never would have had him…"
You sighed, and another tear slid down your cheek, only to get lost in the rain. "I hate myself for saying it, but maybe it was better that you died. That way Mikey got a chance to live, even if it was taken away too soon."
I turned to look at Mikey, who was staring at you with a teary-eyed awed face. He stayed frozen, and I stayed frozen, and you stayed frozen for what felt like eons on end. It wasn't until you finally stood up on bad knees, said goodbye to the people you didn't know were still here, and drove away in your old, black pickup truck that your son looked up at me with tear filled eyes and asked, "Will it always be this hard to see him open up, just watch him go?"
I told him, "It won't always be this hard. Eventually, it will all get easier."
"Do you mean it?" he asked, his deep brown eyes raining onto his cheeks.
I pulled him into my chest, holding him the way I would have held my son, if I ever had one.
A single tear rolled down my cheek. "I mean it. Every word."