The day of the burial the funeral home was overflowing with people. Friends, family, co-workers, teachers, classmates stood in the hallways, overflow rooms, and even outside on the lawn. My family sat there in the first row and waited for the service to begin, still in disbelief of what happened—this was my 18-year-old sister’s funeral. My murdered sister. This shouldn’t be happening.
I don’t remember the funeral service. I don’t remember what people said or everyone who spoke. Instead, I remember I had starred at the casket and at Christina’s body, wishing I could be closer. When the funeral service finished, I approached my sister’s casket and stayed near her, weeping- knowing they would close the casket soon. I could hear people from the service passing us by, some weeping, some offering a pat on my back or an attempt to embrace me as they passed by to give their condolences. My parents greeted them and welcomed their hugs. I refused to turn from the casket, knowing my final moments with my sister’s body would be limited by the line of people waiting to pay their respects. I prayed the line wouldn’t end.
But it did end… and when the last person passed the casket, my Mom and Dad joined me holding Christina and kissing her cold hands, her cold forehead, and brushing her hair with our fingers. It was time to say goodbye.
My Dad announced out loud what we needed to do, “We have to let go, they have to close the casket.”
We cried harder. Oh God, how are we supposed to back away. They can’t make me do this, I’m not ready.
My Dad helped my Mom and he walked her away, I could hear her weeping somewhere behind me… How did she do it, how did she let go? I can’t do it, God help me, I can’t do it.
I heard my Dad again, “Prissy, you have to let go of the casket, they need to close it.”
Dad tried to grab my arm and I aggressively pulled away and violently nodded no. I latched on harder. They can’t make me. I won’t let them make me.
I heard my Dad sigh. He called over Jay and said, “I need you to help me get her.”
They each grabbed under my arm and I heard my Dad tell me again, “Don’t make this harder than it is, you need to let go.”
They began to physically back me up from the casket. I wanted to fight. I wanted to scream until they gave in and let me go… but I had no energy and I knew they didn’t either.
I let go.
As Jay walked me out of the funeral home I turned around and saw my dad standing at my sister’s casket. His head hung low and then he reached above his baby girl’s body and closed her inside. It was over. We wouldn’t see her on this Earth again.
The pain of the casket closing was unbearable… similar to the pain when my Dad said “She’s gone” on that September 28th phone call. Gone. My little sister- gone. My best friend for 18 years- gone. A mommy to her son- gone. My parent’s baby -gone.
Jay placed me in a limo with a driver. Jay tried speaking to me or the people in the car but I’m not sure what he said because it felt as if a bomb was exploding in my head, I only heard a loud hum. My Mom and my friend Mindy were in the car with me. Mindy held my hand. The humming noise continued until my Dad joined us in the car, he looked concerned and said, “Jay is going to direct traffic, so we can get out of here”.
Confused, I look around and saw the sea of cars in the parking lot and on the streets. I saw Jay waving some cars out of the funeral home parking area to make a way for us. Thinking about this now, Jay and Mindy were such good friends, I owe them my friendship for life.
The drive to the cemetery was long. How did my Dad find time to buy and pick a lot? Where did he find the limousine to drive us all? How are they going to afford this?
When we arrived to the lot there was a green tent, like the one you see in movies with chairs for us to sit on… except this was real. Our reality. We sat, numb, tired, and hopeless.
A phrase that bothers me, after the murder of my sister, is when people say, “It was the worst day of my life”. Often, because I think about us three sitting there in front of the casket under the green tent after a week of hell —mentally and emotionally scarred and traumatized. It was the worst week of our lives and we had the rest of our lives to re-live our hell. Yet, I hear people use that phrase so lightly — after they had a flat tire, an embarrassing moment, or when their alive and breathing child misbehaved. I can’t help but think, They have no idea what a bad day is like.
Another phrase that is nails on a chalkboard is “Kill me if I ever ___”. What a horrible and petty expression, typically given by females. Ironically, 80% of women murdered are murdered by someone they know- isn’t this reason enough not to say such a thoughtless comment?
Amazing grace. This is the song they sang while we sat in front of the closed casket. My parents and I were not crying as much anymore. The numbness of closing the casket hadn’t worn off. Would we be able to leave this tent? Could we leave Christina here? How are we going to walk away again and leave her alone?
Only amazing grace could of swept over us because with peace we were able to walk away and we left her at the graveyard. Only God’s grace could save us, only grace could carry us, only grace our fears relieved, only by grace we would see her one day again.
“Grace carried me here and by grace I’ll carry on.”
Hebrews 4:16, NIV: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”