Later that week, my Dad asked me to help him at the funeral home. We had to pick a casket. I went but I don’t remember helping. Jay I think felt obligated to go wherever I went, so he was going to be a part of this horrible day as well.
A man welcomed us at the funeral home and reviewed different kinds of caskets, options, flowers and other things we could do for the funeral. I didn’t listen to half of what the man said but remember everything costing so much money. My parents barely had enough money to live their daily lives.
This was the first school year they didn’t have to help me pay my monthly college tuition payments since I graduated over the summer. I’m sure their accounts were still recovering from my choice to go to a private college, not only private but also out-of-state. I was so determined to go to my school of choice and never considered the impact it would have on anyone. At the time, I didn’t think much about them helping me pay for my schooling. I had many friend’s whose parent paid ALL of their tuition and weren’t expected to make monthly payments like I had to do. I felt it was a sacrifice my parents had to make.
But now… now, I know if I didn’t pick an out-of-state expensive school then there would of been extra money to make sure Christina went to college immediately after high school. Instead, partly due to my selfish choices, she wouldn’t go to school and took this year off. How could I not question if her path would of been different if it weren’t for my choices?
If only I could do it all over again.
The man took us to a room to view casket options. I stood at a casket and looked at its silk lining – they were going to put my sister in one of these? Fear crushed my chest and I told myself to wait to cry until I went back home.
Training to “wait to cry”, had begun.
I heard the funeral man say a price for a casket and my Dad put his head down and pointed to another casket.
Dad asked shamefully, “that’s a little more than we can afford, how about that one?”
I felt sick. Fear clenched at my heart again and then it squeezed my lungs – it was hard to breathe.
My thoughts were racing: Dad, a little more than we can afford? The funeral and casket will be half of your annual income Dad! Dad, I can’t even pay rent this month, I can’t help you!!! Dad, who is going to help us? Dad, HOW are you going to pay for this?
My thoughts were only thoughts because I couldn’t get the words out. I heard my Dad say, “Prissy, do you think this one is ok?”
I knew this casket was too much too but I couldn’t say anything nor did I think it would matter as I was certain everything in this building was too much. So I nodded yes.
I don’t know how my Dad paid for the casket or for the funeral services. I honestly don’t know how my Dad did everything he had to do. It’s not like my mom was in the state to help, plus we needed her to stay with Christina’s baby. I wasn’t much of a help either.
After we picked the casket, Dad asked me to go buy undergarments for my sister to wear for the funeral. The task seemed simple enough so Jay drove me to a nearby store. I needed to buy stockings, a slip and a bra- my grandmother would be making Christina a dress.
Jay needed to grab a few things so he went his way and I went mine. Suddenly, I realized I was alone, surrounded by people who had no knowledge my sister was just found murdered. No idea of my pain. No understanding of how hard a simple shopping task would be for me.
They wouldn’t know and they couldn’t know. How could they? Until their loved one was murdered. Until they had to stand in the nylon aisle as they searched for the correct size of nylon for their murdered sister’s legs. Until they had to think about the same legs kicking,,, running…crawling away from her murderer.
No, no one could understand. Until they had to ask the store clerk where to find the slips for their murdered sister. Until they were not sure if the slip needed to be long or short. Until they had the horrible thought: does it matter? Until they wondered if they could just hide under the clothing rack and cry for a bit, maybe no one would see.
No one could know how hard this was… Until they searched for a bra for their murdered sister. Until they questioned her bra size because after she had her baby, her body changed. Oh God, help us, her baby. Until they cried in the aisle because they remembered their sister’s 10 month old baby doesn’t know where his mommy went.
The awareness of no one knowing, understanding, or feeling what I felt caused fear again- I felt this imaginary hand squeezing my heart. Later in life, I learned this fear was called anxiety and this was only the beginning.
While I was at the store I saw someone I knew. They were coming down one end of the aisle and I was coming down the other. When they saw me they turned the other way pretending not to see me. This would become the norm in our community, in our family. Grief scares people, it makes them uncomfortable- even those who love you don’t want to face it. The hard part of this is “it” equals me.
The rest of my life would be like walking into the store that day to buy undergarments – no one would know.
To the reader: Unlike the entry above which was pulled from my journal from a few years ago – this here is written in real time. Fear gripped me and seized me and it continues to try to take me down EVERY DAY but it will never overtake me because I am a child of God. Listen to the song below and proclaim the same every day – I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. Drown your fears and your guilt in perfect love and you too will get through.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will stregthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand. Isaiah 41:10