This story is by Corrine Weiss and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“She looks beautiful, even now,” a fuzzy but familiar voice fills my ears. Who is that? This has been a consistent thought pattern for the last 45 minutes. I hear sniffles and a soft hand touch my hair. There’s a heart wrenching gasp followed by the cry of my mother’s voice.
“I can’t do this.”
My heart aches and pounds. Well not really, but if my heart could still beat, I know it would almost burst out of my chest at this point.
I hear the mumbled words of my pastor performing the eulogy. I can’t quite make out what he’s saying, but I’m sure it’s something along the lines of “She was too young to die, she’s in a better place now.” How can I hear this?! I’m supposed to be gone!
I never imagined this is what death would be like. I didn’t think I would still be able to think, hear, and feel. When people talk about death, they think of complete loss of the senses, or complete regain of the senses in an afterlife. But I have never heard of partial sensory loss.
I know I can’t move. I can’t open my eyes, or my mouth or muster anything up from my throat to make a noise.
But I can hear the earth around me.
I can feel the pressure of the air on top of me.
I can think.
I can dream.
I can remember.
I’m in some sort of coma-like-state, or paralysis. All I know is this is not how I expected it. I wanted to leave this place, to be done with life and this world. To not feel the pain anymore. To not be anymore.
With the sound of my Mother’s cries, I am immediately thrown back to the day my Father left. My innocent, six-year-old eyes tried not to cry as I watched him drive away in that 1999 Honda Civic. But my Mother couldn’t hold it together. As she wept, I remember being gripped by this overwhelming urge to hug and comfort her. To wipe away her tears and tell her that we didn’t need him. That’s just what I did.
But today, that feeling came back, and even stronger than that day in my childhood. My Mom’s sobs sounded different today than I had ever heard them. Only this time, I can’t reach out and hug her or wipe away her tears.
That might be the worst part of this.
Another voice approaches, and I’m nervous as to what they might say. I don’t think I can handle this any longer.
“She was so young. This shouldn’t have happened. How didn’t I catch it?” More sobs. I recognized that voice to be Ms. Wheat, my 11th grade English teacher. She was the reason I almost didn’t do it.
But I did, and the reality that I’m still here is too much to handle. I’m not supposed to feel anything. I did this so the pain would stop. As far as I’m concerned, it only got worse.
Today I heard many voices that I knew, but all I am waiting for is his. It never came. I never heard anyone say his name either. My dead heart feels crushed. How is that even possible? I can’t believe he didn’t show up. He’s the reason I’m here anyway.
Maybe he knows that and feels guilty.
Or maybe he just doesn’t care.
I feel a sudden jolt. Whatever I’m laying in, I presume a coffin, is being lifted. Carried. It dawned on me.
I’m going into the dirt.
No, no, no.
This can’t be happening. Will it be completely silent down there? Will I just be left with my thoughts? How long will I be in this state? For eternity? So many questions and fears prance across my mind, too fast to even process them. I’ve never felt fear like this.
I am being lowered and then I hit the earth. There are thuds hitting the top of the coffin, one after another. Dirt. Dirt is being thrown on top of me. This is happening.
I have to think of something. There is no way I can be down here forever with just my thoughts. I can’t take the nothingness. Pretty soon the thudding stops and it is completely silent.
I am buried.
I can hear faint footsteps on the world above me, but nothing else. If I could, I would vomit. If I could make a noise, the world would tremble with my blood curdling scream.
This is my worst nightmare, but strangely I’ve never felt more awake. It’s like with my body being dead, my soul is able to be felt in it’s full capacity. Almost like when someone loses their sight, they are able to hear sounds they never noticed before. I am able to realize the brokenness of of my spirit like I never have.
That’s when it hits me.
I’ve heard of something like this before. Souls being trapped in a sort of purgatory before entering the afterlife. Maybe that’s what this is, a holding place. Why is it that souls would stay? They have unfinished business, I realized. Maybe there’s something I left on earth that I haven’t completely let go of that is keeping me trapped in this decaying body. Hope starts to rise as I consider the possibility of not being here forever.
Think. What am I leaving behind? What did I leave unfinished? I’m not sure how long I pondered this before it clicked.
Asher. The boy I loved. The reason I did what I did. I ended my life because he didn’t want me. I have to let go of him. My love for him, and need for him to want me is what is chaining me to the earth. But how do I let go of someone that meant so much to me? The one person who made me feel like I’m both on fire and in an ice bath all at once. How do I disconnect my heart from his?
This could take an eternity to figure out.
I hypothetically close my eyes and dig deep inside my heart.
You stop loving the person who doesn’t love you by loving yourself more.
Asher is breathtaking, and beautiful, yes. And for a short time he did make me feel like the most wonderful person on earth, but now I see he only selfishly loved me. He said those things to get what he wanted out of me, and he tossed me aside once he got it. But now I realize that I am wonderful, and not because he said I am. I am beautiful, but not because he said I am. But because I am. I see myself in clear light of all that I am, or…was. I never needed him to feel worth something.
If I was alive, I know my heart would be racing furiously right about now. Before I know it, a song starts to fill my ears. It’s a song I’ve never heard before- but it speaks of how loved I am, how I’ve been waited on, it speaks of coming home. But I am not ready yet. I know my realization with Asher has made me closer to letting go of this place.
But there is one more thing. Something else I haven’t let go of. A figure clouds my mind. My heart sinks as it starts to become clearer. It’s a 1999 Honda Civic driving away from me. My Father, the day he left. I’ve never truly forgiven him, and I’ve based every opinion of myself on his leaving. I realize I was looking for my Dad in Asher. I wanted Asher to want me because my Father never did. The same realization that happened with Asher has to happen here. I remind myself, a bit differently this time, you forgive the person who doesn’t love you by loving yourself more.
It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; but I forgive him, not because he deserves it, but because what he did doesn’t have to define me. Just because he didn’t love me doesn’t establish me as unlovable. His walking away does not define me as rejected. My Father didn’t love me, Asher didn’t love me, and that reality literally killed me. I couldn’t bear to accept that in my life which is why I’m here. But I can now, I can love myself now. I can see myself in the true light of being totally worthy of love for the first time in my life.
Warmth starts to envelop my body. The song that started playing gets louder. I am enveloped by sounds that are far greater than the best vinyl record. By smells that fill up my being and remind me of a distant home. And tastes sweeter than the settled sugar at the bottom of a cup of coffee. This holding place was numb, ominous, and easily the scariest moment I’ve ever encountered. But what I’m stepping into now makes every drop of suffering and confusion look like a just speck amidst the grandest work of art.