The first funeral I remember attending was for a baby. I was fourteen. It was my cousin's baby. I hadn't met the baby and wasn't close to this cousin. But that funeral has stuck with me.
Before the funeral started there was a family prayer in another room. I was
there. I heard them pray for the parents and family. I heard them pray for the
babysitter, who had found the baby in the crib. Not breathing. Crib death. And
I remember the sound my cousin made when they closed the coffin. A tiny gasp
escaped her. The sound of her heart breaking.
I cried throughout the funeral. Not because I would miss this baby; I
probably wouldn't have seen her more than once or twice in her lifetime. I
cried because of the overwhelming pain in the room. So many people. So
I'd missed school to attend the funeral. My mom offered to let me skip the
rest of the day, but I had classes that I shouldn't miss. So I went back to
And I didn't understand.
Why was everyone walking around like there was nothing wrong? Did they not
understand that a tragedy had occurred? It seemed so irreverent. How could they
be so heartless? People giggling, are you kidding me? Nothing in the rest of
the world had changed.
Why? Why didn't the world stop? Something so horrific had happened. A tiny,
innocent child had died and no one cared. The world didn't care. It was
difficult for me to process.
And later that day I noticed myself talking with friends and laughing. I
felt horrible! How could I just move on? How could I feel better when my cousin
was so terribly sad? What a horrible person I was.
Fast forward twenty years. My marriage is in shambles. My health is failing.
I am in therapy, borderline suicidal. I am self-injuring and taking sedatives
just to make it through each day. And my boss, who is one of my best friends and
a therapist, keeps giving me more work. I am dying inside. My heart is
breaking. I can barely get out of bed. He knows this. Why won't he give me a break?
Doesn't he understand that I just want to rest? I just want to stop. I just
want to not exist for a while.
Yes, he understands all of that. And he knows me. He knows that isn't
healthy for me. He tells me that he knows he's giving me more and it's hard,
but he worries that if he doesn't I will disconnect from the world. I will sink
so far into a depression that I might not come out. He is doing this to help
me. Because he loves me and worries about me. It's his way of trying to protect
That happened about seven years ago. It was the worst time of my life. But I
got through it. The world kept spinning and I had to go on. My friend was right.
There is power in continuing. I had time to heal, but I also had something to
keep me connected to the world. To keep me moving forward.
The world doesn't stop. Everything just keeps on going. And I have come to
believe that's an incredible gift. It is unhealthy for us to just give up and
quit. Take a break and take time to mourn, of course. I am not saying that's
not important. But we must keep going or we die. Maybe not our bodies, but our
hearts and souls.
If we stop at the point of the most intense pain then that is where we will
live. We will be forever in a hell of our own making. We didn't chose the
tragedy, but we choose whether or not to sit and stare at it for the rest of
our lives. And if the world didn't keep going on around us, if we didn't still
have obligations to meet and people to take care of, it would be too easy to
just sit in our pain. Forever.