Monday, September 07, 2009

I Have to Learn How to Live or I'll Die

Here is some graffiti.

I think I'm going to do a weird, morbid writing exercise tonight. It's what I can remember, with a little artistic license thrown in - you know how I usually do it. Enjoy:

I had never been to a Mormon wake before. I don't think I'd actually been to any kind of wake before. I remember going to a priest's funeral once, but it seemed big and impersonal. This Mormon wake was small and contained and there was a dead body right there in the room with us.

I met him before and talked to him when he came to our house to pick my brother up. In fact, I had just seen him a few days ago. My brother was in the Big Brother/Big Sister program and they gave him this guy. He was a bishop or a deacon or whatever Mormon's call their higher up guys. He seemed nice, but I never had time to get to know him. I don't even remember his name. I wonder if my brother does?

He picked my brother up to go to a Big Brother/Big Sister picnic at Lake Pleasant. I don't know what else happened, but I know that a bunch of them decided to swim out to an island. When Bill got there, he couldn't find his big brother. No one else could either. His big brother never made it. He drowned on the way there, after swimming right next to my brother.

So, we were at his wake and it was very small and his dead body was right there. His mother came up to us. She wore one of those big, several layered buns on the top of her head. She asked, "Did you say goodbye to him?" I assumed she was talking to my brother and I stepped behind him, just in case she meant me. My brother mumbled something, like he always did. We could never understand him and I think he wanted it that way. "You should touch him," his mother told us.

She took both of our hands and walked us to the body. I was afraid of him. He was so pale. He didn't even look real. "come on," she insisted. I looked at my brother and he kept his eyes to the floor, but he put his hand on the dead man's wrist. I didn't think I could do it, but I looked at the woman and knew there was no getting out of it. I touched his finger. I took my hand away so fast, I'm not even sure what it felt like. The woman hugged my brother and when she released him, we took off to find my mom and beg her to let us leave.


Pamela said...

You touch dead people.

Ananda girl said...

Gee that is kind of creepy. I mean if it's her belief, well okay. But to have someone else's child do something that huge!!!

Yikes! No wonder it has stayed with you. Great story.

thisnewplace said...


laura b. said...

That is a very old school wake. I don't think kids understand death well enough to have to go through that.

Remiman said...

I remember wakes in relatives homes when I was a youngster. I didn't like them and don't remember ever touching the deceased. I looked at them, but not too long, if you know what I mean
I do now, but for sure it's a funny feeling.

booda baby said...

Ooooh. I hope you bring this out for Halloween spookiness.

Have you seen 'Sunshine Cleaning'?

AlienCG said...

That is kind creepy and disturbing. Please don't make me touch dead people. Excellent story.

Churlita said...

Pamela, Hey, it was only once and I was too young to know better...

Ananda, I think she was kind of nutty to begin with, and the grief didn't help that.


I know.


Exactly. This was in 1973 or 74, I think.


My grandma was a mortician, but she retired the year I was born, so I wasn't around it all the time like my dad and his siblings.

Booda Baby,

I haven't. Is it about a dead body?


I hope most people wouldn't want you to either.

booda baby said...

I haven't. Is it about a dead body?

Sort of. Ish. Only you don't see any. (Oops. Lie. One.) It's a very cool flick. Kind of like 'Juno' but not so self conscious and overly clever. It's sincere and dear and all that. And still VERY cool.

And I suspect there are other benefits for anyone with creepy memories.