The second day of my sister’s wake was no easier than the first. I’m not sure why we had two full days for the wake, perhaps one of those things the funeral man sold us while we starred blankly at him, nodding yes to whatever he presented. They shouldn’t allow grieving families to make these decisions- but who will? At least… they had fixed Christina’s makeup.
I stayed at Christina’s casket, weeping. I didn’t greet those coming in. I didn’t move so others could see her. I didn’t care if they couldn’t see her—she was mine more than theirs.
As I wept and rubbed Christina’s head, I felt someone rubbing mine. This person didn’t speak or say anything to comfort me- they were just there. I’ve come to learn with grief in those days and in the years to come – someone being there was really all that mattered.
They don’t need the right words.
They don’t need to bring gifts.
They don’t need to give me another “sorry for your loss”
They just need to sit beside me, giving me some sign, any sign, they are there.
Sometimes when I cry and I’m alone — I can still feel a hand caressing my head… because of this I wonder did the person standing behind me at the funeral really exist? Perhaps, it was God’s holy spirit comforting me. I don’t know because I never turned around.
At one point during the wake, I was able to lift my eyes to the crowd and look around the room. I saw my family scattered throughout, strangers and then my coworkers and roommates from New York. How did they get here? I wanted to greet them, thank them for their presence… but I didn’t want to leave my sister.
I couldn’t leave my sister- not again.
I knew they didn’t expect me to, they were there in case I needed them and… I did need them. I needed them there in that exact moment when I finally looked up from the casket. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I needed them to know what happened because I would never speak of it.
Only two weeks later, I returned to New York. I went back because I knew rent was due on October 1st and I didn’t pay it- nor did I have any money left in my bank account to pay it. I didn’t even bother asking my parents for rent money– I knew whatever money they received would go towards the funeral. I would need to pick up some shifts bartending at the restaurant until I made rent.
I also headed to New York because I needed to run away from home as fast as I could. It was October 11th, my sister’s birthday. I drove back to New York that night- alone, screaming, pounding my fists on the steering wheel, clenching my heart as I blinked through my tears to see the highway ahead of me, praying God would make the 10 hour trip end. It was the second hardest car ride of my life.
When I finally reached the area I lived, I headed straight to the restaurant I worked at to get myself on the schedule. My manager was shocked to see me and took me to the back office. She handed me an envelope. There was almost $500.00 in it. She explained how everyone donated their tips to help me pay rent. One co-worker in particular donated ALL of his tips from a double shift to me. This co-worker didn’t even like me too much, we often butted heads. However, because of him and those who also contributed I was able to pay rent and have some money left over for gas and groceries. I will never forget this.
I planned on giving the rent money to my roommates, as I had assumed they split the $300.00 I owed amongst the five of them. However, when I gave the money to Jess she told me they had decided to hand in the rent short of the $300.00 I owed. She said the landlord agreed to accept my portion of the rent when I arrived back home.
Reluctantly, I headed to the landlord’s home. His wife opened the door and I apologized for the late rent as I handed her the $300.00 —but she didn’t take it. She asked me to come in. I didn’t want to go in, I didn’t want to be there. However, I politely walked inside and reached out with the envelope again—wishing they would just take the money and let me go.
Instead, they sat down on their sofa and asked me to sit. I sat. They were both from India and their home smelled of curry- a smell which would forever remind me of this day.
The landlord said, “Your roommates told us a little of what happened…” He paused, they both starred at me, anxiously awaiting details.
“Yes, my sister… she was, she was…” I realized in that moment, I couldn’t say it. I flashed back to the day I found out and how my family and Jay couldn’t say it to me either.
“Murdered. Yes, yes- they told us that,” the husband bluntly stated without sympathy or any knowledge of the pain the word carried. It was a fact he already knew and he seemed bothered I didn’t provide more information. “Did they catch who did it?”
“Yes.” I nodded yes as well because my throat felt dry and I’m not sure if I spoke clearly or loudly enough.
The couple nodded their heads to encourage me to say more, but I couldn’t.
I thought…All they are missing is a bag of popcorn.
My pain was their entertainment- a sad story which would fill their time. A story they could share with others at their next dinner party. But a sad story with no details- they needed me to feed them the details. I remembered this feeling, it was similar to the feeling I had when the news anchor showed up at our door, the day I found out Christina was murdered —it was anger mixed with disgust.
“So- who was it?” the husband asked impatiently.
“Her ex-boyfriend. It was her ex-boyfriend.” I said. I thought maybe they would be satisfied now, but they weren’t.
The husband asked another question, ” You didn’t know she was in danger with this man? Your parents didn’t know?”
I nodded no. I said, “I don’t think so… I don’t know.”
Did I know? I remember how trapped Christina looked the day we picked up her baby on my last visit home. How she said she couldn’t come home. Did I know?
The room began to spin and the smell of curry suddenly smelled stronger than before. I felt sick, unable to hear the next question. I managed to stand up.
“I have to go. I’m sorry, it was a long drive and I’m really tired.” I walked towards the door in a hurry to let myself out. In my hurry, I had forgotten to hand them the owed rent.
“Ok, sorry this happened, maybe you can tell us more after you rest, we’ll be home.” The landlord smiled and then he gestured towards the envelope. He had pointed at the rent— I handed it over.
I turned from their door in a state of disbelief. The tears rolled down my face as I headed back home. So many questions raced through my head… How many more of those conversations would I have to have? Did they not know she was real, we are real, this happened to us? Why would they think I would want to talk to them? Why didn’t my roommates split the rent to spare me this? Did I know???
I wanted to hide from everyone, to bury this part of my life. On that day, October 12, 2003, I made the decision to never allow someone to know this part of my life again and no one has…except you*.
To the reader: *you* at the end of this entry is referring to my husband, Frankie. However, now I guess *you* is everyone who reads this. The above journal entry was written about a year ago and posted today. I started these entries a few years ago so my husband Frankie could help me talk about my grief. As I type up my journal entries, I am in awe how God has always provided. I didn’t see it at the time maybe not even when I first wrote the entry but I see it more and more how I was supported and loved.
In the healing and in the hurting, like a blessing buried in the broken pieces- even when I didn’t know it and couldn’t see it—there was Jesus. I’ve attached the song below before but feel it is worth hearing again.