- of, relating to, or based on the intellect
Funerals were the worst. It’s not that I didn’t mind that people died–wait, I mean it’s not that I didn’t understand that people died–it was just hard to wrap my mind around being in a room full of people grieving the loss of a loved one. It was like being confined with the wounded soldiers who’d just dragged their loved one off of the battlefield only to find out he died midway through the journey.
And somehow, I, the person least likely to be caught at a funeral had been corralled into speaking solemn words about someone I’d hardly known who was greatly loved by a bunch of people who were fearless at sharing their emotions and enjoyed physical contact.
An uncomfortable weight rested in the center of my abdomen and grew cold. The room itself felt overwhelming and stuffy.
I should have said no, but the more people cry the quicker I cave to requests. This was one of the many faults I’ve learned about myself. What makes it worse is the fact that it includes my nieces and nephews who want chocolate for breakfast and the mother of a deceased classmate who sobbed into my shirt, leaving behind her mascara.
I barely said anything during that 15-minute barrage. I just nodded, with a pained look on my face, saying “of course,” repeatedly. Those two words and my empathetic presentation somehow landed me on the funeral program to do the other thing that scared me most–public speaking.
On the funeral program, my name came between an uncle and younger sibling, both of whom were already in tears.
The uncle had been talking for 15 minutes between his sobs, which gave me more time to mentally prepare my speech. It had been hard to think of what to say about someone with whom I only shared a noetic relationship when the occasion called for it in our astrophysics class. I was pondering useful adjectives when the uncle somehow finished sooner than I expected. He startled me as he called my name, before tearfully welcoming me to the podium.
I glanced at the huge portrait of my classmate’s smile. He no longer smiled that way in the coffin. It wasn’t even close to the same, as his body looked chiseled and hard instead of light and full of life. The photo held more life than the stuffed husk in the coffin and that brought an unexpected tightness to my throat.
Adjusting the mike to my shorter stature, I debated how to begin as I looked down at the wooden podium, the sounds of sniffles and deep wailing enveloping me.
Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply to steady my nervousness. I didn’t want to just say something nice because the person was here; I wanted to at least be honest.
I leaned toward the microphone.
“Death is the worst,” I said, surprising myself. “And it never seems to make any sense whether you felt prepared for it or not. But what comforts me on the crazy rollercoaster of grief is simply knowing that my life crossed paths with someone who was greatly loved and appreciated and whose life impacted many.”
My unexpected opener was greeted with increased wailing. I took that as a good sign and kept going, talking about the little things I’d observed in class–those things that make us the us people know so well, and I marveled at how I noticed more than I thought I had about my quiet classmate.
The more I talked, the more I remembered until my eyes were stinging and my throat was too tight to speak. I quickly relinquished the podium, handing it off to the sibling before resuming my seat. I was greeted with head nods and welcomed back to my original seat with understanding nods, pats on the back and hugs. And I listened between my own sobs as another person added more dimensions to the life that I only knew in part.
*This post was inspired by Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, because they updated their webpage first.