Understanding Death’s Embrace

Hello, and this piece hits very close to me. It’s a memoir about a time when I was around eight and when my grandmother died. And about how that changed me, making me realize so much more than I ever thought experiencing it did. It’s a sad and very depressing little piece from my life, but, it’s important to me. I think it’s made me learn a lot, and I can still learn a lot from thinking about it. So here you go, “Understanding Death’s Embrace”.

I remember quite vividly the very moment my grandmother had died. I was at home on my computer when my parents received the call. Of course, I couldn’t understand the actual conversation that my parents had on the phone, or the contents of the caller, but her expression, and the utter ice shattering silence that ensued was all I needed. My grandmother was at the hospital for quite sometime before this call, and, in lieu of my age, being around eight at the time, was dragged to visit her. I thought nothing much of these visits.  It seemed more chore-like than actual visits to me, and I was deathly bored of the entire situation. I was quite a child.  

I later learned that my grandmother had died of cancer. And, for some reason I understood that it had meant that the chances of conceiving cancer for myself was now substantially higher. For a moment I even cursed my grandmother. Thankfully, that mindset did not last long. I had never been to a funeral before then, I don’t think many children had. That day moved like molasses. It was god-awful. I was forced to wear black clothes, and remove the very identity that I had came to be known for, a hat. I had to stand around with all my extended family, moving my body to and fro to prevent myself from breaking out from my stringent prison.  The atmosphere was entirely black, and it seemed like a band of disgruntled office workers were grouping up to see who was the next in line to be out of a job. I didn’t understand why the atmosphere was so filled with anathema towards the pangs of reality, and thus I kept on my childish demeanor; I remained cheery.

It wasn’t until everyone was here, and that the time struck right that we were led into the main procession of this ceremony. We all went to our seats, and sat. I felt awkward for even being here. The only thing I saw were all these edificial adults and a solemn coffin at the front. I swung my legs as I sat, and looked at all the downtrodden faces. I smiled at my mom when she looked down at me, and she responded with weak eyes and a pat on my head.

Once the procession had started, a man at the front had flipped open an un-lengthy book and began chanting. Now it truly was like I was in another world. I didn’t understand anything of the language being spoken but I simply let the words flow through me. I was the only one who looked about, curious at the happenings of the world around me, flooded by my xenophobic nature. I hated it. I wanted everything to end. I wanted to be out of this pernicious encasement. But I had to stay. I had no choice. Every single person in this room knew that the right thing was to look down in utter grievance and to feel knives and bullets pierce their every being. Except I couldn’t.

After the long incoherent chants, we all got turns looking at my grandmother’s body. I went up too, as to follow the flow of the room. She was dead. That was perhaps the only thought that had raced across my head when I saw her. She was dead, just a few weeks ago I saw her, but now she’s dead. I won’t be seeing her again. I could not talk to her before this because of her unstable condition. She was dead, and I was looking death straight in the eye. I still didn’t cry.

We moved her coffin and drove elsewhere to where she would be cremated. I remembered the furnace as my breaking point. We all huddled around the large hearth. It was burning violently and threatened to incarcerate me if I had gotten closer. I held onto the hem of my mom’s dress as the entire process happened. The coffin entered the bellowing flames, and engulfed it within seconds. The flames subjugated my grandmother’s dead body and turned it into ash. Everyone was in tears at this moment, and the sounds of sobs and wailing permeated the area. I looked up at my mother, and smiled again, because I could not find tears in my eyes. She smiled back, with tears streaming, and a crooked smile that she had to force. It was at this moment, that I finally looked down. That my mood had changed from a phlegmatic and naive child, to a sorry brat. I couldn’t smile anymore in front of them, I just couldn’t. I understood not to. This wasn’t the time and place, and I acted my age. I forced myself to be sad, and I even felt some tears stream from my eyes. But I just couldn’t come to sympathize with my dead grandmother. I was crying for my mother.

That moment changed me. I couldn’t ignore the world around me, or let my egocentric tendencies show. I was just a little brat in a world filled with misanthropy and capitalism. To put myself in front of anyone and even remotely think that I was any more important to them was just completely abject. I can’t smile in a situation where others cried, no matter how naive I was about death, or what that actually meant, that much I understood. I put on a mask so that my parents would not worry about me. I followed whatever they did so that they wouldn’t think that I was a problem child. I believed in them.

It was from that day on that I came to embrace death. I came to my own conclusion what death was. It just wasn’t about the loss of a loved one. That much was too simple, too black and white. I came to view death as an event that brought about reunion and communion. Reunion, because it quite literally brought all my extended family to one place. But communion because in death we all come to realize different things. Some realize the pain of loss, or the feelings of grievance, while others come to realize the ever moving time that we humans are cursed with. I came to learn of familial standards and just being a decent kid. But with that, I also came to understand that death is as much good as it is sad. After all is said, we all smile and move on from the experience, living a reverie of our nostalgia and then taking everything we learned from the deceased. We don’t mourn for long because that causes unneeded grievance for the dead, and so we choose to move on, with all that we have and live better lives for them.


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