I experienced my first funeral at age 9(ish). I honestly don’t remember the year. What I do remember is what I saw, and what I heard. For the first time in my life, I saw sad grown-ups. I heard hushed, low whispers. Words of mourning. I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was clearly old enough to understand death, but I’d never seen adults exhibit these kinds of emotions before. I’d never seen these sad expressions, this droopy body language.
I’d seen sadness before.
A few times in my life I had seen adult men, downtrodden when their favorite football team took a bad beat, but this, this was different. In my house these types of emotions didn’t exist. At the time, I thought they weren’t allowed. When my mom got the news my dad had experienced a massive heart attack when I was 6, she didn’t shed a tear, but continued to put on a face of ease, one that was supposed to convey the feeling that everything would be alright, even though I knew otherwise. It wasn’t until I was much older, when my mom nonchalantly told me my dad had experience another heart attack and had almost died, but was fine now, that I realized how deep the denial of emotions went. If they started to show themselves when I was growing up, we vanquished them to a land far away, never to be seen or heard from again.
So when I experienced the death of a relative, from cancer, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel.
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