The things you don't say
“Do you think he was afraid in those last few moments?” Her eyes were big and desperate, looking straight into mine.
“No. He was disorientated. He was foggy. There is no way he knew what was happening. I was there.” She seems satisfied with this. We sit back and watch everyone, like ants, walking in pairs, lines, some of them approaching the grave and others staying far back by the trees, talking to each other in groups of three or four. My mother sits alone under the canopy holding her face in her hands. Everyone has left her but they all watch her from the corners of their eyes. They don’t know how to handle her grief. My sister and I don’t either and so we sit back a few rows and feel that all we understand is each other. My father never showed up, mumbling something about how the spirit has left and this is only a body and he’s not here anymore and why should he come to the funeral that means nothing and would mean nothing to my brother. Everyone is angry with him but then, everyone is always angry with my father.
My sister and I get up because my younger brother is waving us over. My cousin from Las Vegas is here. He’s huge, muscular, bald, littered in tattoos. He busts gangs for a living. We walk up to him and he doesn’t know what to say. His face isn’t streaked with anguish like ours. He barely knew my brother and all his memories of him would have been from Christmas at our grandmother’s house back before he could even use a fork by himself. We talk for a moment about his job, his baby, and I turn to look at his wife who isn’t saying a word. She’s tall, thin and very blonde. Her face seems perpetually locked in a grimace.
My sister nudges me, giving me that look that she wants to leave, she is about to break down again. So we walk back over to the chairs and sit down. My mother has stopped crying. She sits, slumped over, staring at the ground. Someone is standing in front of her with their hand on her shoulder. He is trying to get through, almost shaking her, bending down to make eye contact but she doesn't look up and he puts his hands in his pockets for a minute before walking away.
“Are you sure he didn't suffer at the last minute?” My sister pleads at me with her eyes.
“No. He didn't. I promise.”
But in those last few minutes he did wake up. I was at home, folding laundry, and my brother’s wife calls. She tells me to rush over to the house as soon as I can but it takes me 20 minutes even with the gas pedal pushed nearly to the ground the entire way. I came into the room and he seemed asleep, mostly, and then suddenly he wasn't. He starting kicking his legs and my mother reached out to him, put her hand on his shoulder and she’s terrified because he’s trying to wake up. His wife screams “Wake up! Just wake up!” and he tries. His eyes open, just for a moment. He looks right at my mother and his eyes are suffused and bright with terror. For a moment. Just before.
I don’t tell my sister this. I just sit with my hands in my lap, try not to see the people milling around, acting in their bereavement, as if they understand everything that happened