Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living

I’ve been to more funerals than I can count.

I’ve probably been to at least one a year for as long as I can remember.

And after a while, you try to numb the grief.

I remember at my aunt’s funeral, all of us cousins walked across the street to 7-11 to get slushies in the middle of the four-hour visitation. Anything to get our minds off of what was going on in that building, to make us forget for a moment and do something that felt like any other day.

Because inside that funeral home, it felt like I was suffocating, knowing I would never see the woman lying in that casket ever again. She would never again hug me or play card games with me like she had only a month prior.

It didn’t feel real. How could I see her face so clearly, see and touch her so recently, and have her just be gone.

As part of my job, I hear about death on a daily basis. And if I didn’t try to numb it, tried not to think about death, I wouldn’t get through every day. I wouldn’t be able to ask the parents of a girl who just died about their memories of her without bursting into tears.

But for some reason today, as I was in my apartment alone, I didn’t numb it. I thought about all the parents who I’ve talked to who suddenly and tragically lost their child. Sometimes I try to pretend it’s not real, like I’m reading a novel instead of real life. But it is real life. All those parents I talked to on the phone and tried to comfort as they cried – it was all real. I thought about the funerals I went to, the family members who faked a smile as they hugged the attendees. And for once, I didn’t even try to hold it together.

I thought about what happened behind closed doors, when the family goes home and changes out of their all-black clothing.

And then we try to forget, try to pretend like death doesn’t happen. We make jokes about death to try not to think about it. People at work make jokes about it all the time, when I know, in reality, they are just trying to cover up how they really feel about it.

It’s a scary thing to think about. We try to fill up our time with other things so we don’t think about it. But instead of all that, why don’t we spend our time telling others how much they mean to us. So many days are controlled by talking bad about people, judging, cutting people off in traffic and trying to get an extra buck, no matter who we step on on the way. It's spent numbing the pain by focusing all our energy on things that don't matter. But when it’s all said and done, does any of that really matter?

In the end, isn't what matters making sure we did everything we could to make someone's life worth living?

We judge people so easily – for what they did and what they didn’t do when we don't really know them at all.

But in the end, that stuff never really mattered at all. 

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