via: Victorian Web

The first funeral I attended wasn’t a funeral at all. It was the burial of the family pet, a cat named Chachi. The neighbor found him on the side of the road after having been hit by a car. My father was still living with us at the time and we were all getting dressed for church. I’m not sure if Chachi died later or if he was put out of his misery, but I demanded that we have a funeral. My father dug the hole in the backyard and to this day, the cat’s remains still rest beneath the soil.

For years, my maternal grandfather – after whom I am named – stated that when he died, he wanted to be buried with his head peering from under the dirt. His reasons were quite comical; he wanted to keep an eye on others. He also wanted his grave site located beneath a tree, to linger underneath its shade – a reminiscence of the days when he sought peace beneath the trees neighboring the fields he tended.

A few years ago, Dave Matthews released a solo album entitled Some Devil. The first single off the record – the only single I was ever aware of – was called “Gravedigger.” The song is made up of short stories – stanza long stories – of the lives of the names upon the tombstones. The chorus hasn’t lost its ability to send shivers down my spine.

Gravedigger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?

Like my grandfather calling from beyond the grave, though I’m sure there have been other grandparents who have queer requests pertaining to their final resting spot.

Late morning, I passed the church of my youth. Sacred Heart Church once stood towering above me, a beacon to Heaven. The toll of the bell once held so much power to my ears – god’s nursery rhyme. A group of men stand, waiting, chatting with one another with soft voices, by its door. Doing my best to steal glances at them without drawing attention to myself. There is no limousine parked in front, no looks of glee. These people aren’t here to celebrate a new life, but to mourn the last rites of one. Eerily, my music shuffles to the next song.

Gravedigger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?

I push forward, bowing my head in a failed attempt of respect. As I meet the corner of the parking lot, I look ahead and see no signs of the motorcade as it parades down 16th Street. I cross the street and am surprised at the wail of the police car as it pulls up to the middle of University Drive to stop traffic, allowing the funeral procession to make its way to the church.

As it pulls along by me, I reach for my hat. When I was a kid, my great aunt instructed me to remove my hat whenever a funeral procession drove by. I struggle with what I was raised to believe and the unkempt hair that hid beneath my cap. Again, I just bow my head and continue on, not without catching a glance of a woman mourning her loved one.

I turned to the plaza and continue down toward my destination, encountering a small group of angry women waiting by the doors of a clothing store. It is three or five minutes past the hour and the doors aren’t open, yet. I wondered if, on the day of their deaths, would a young man remove his hat, exposing his unkempt, if a group of disgruntled shoppers fume over mundane things.

Gravedigger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?

I thought up my first Last Will and Testament when I was five-years-old. I left all my toys to Roddy, a childhood friend of mine. As the years flew by, there were other versions, other friends who’d inherit my possessions. As I walked by Sacred Heart on my way home, the funeral was already in session. The church that had meant so much to me as a child, now represents end of life, the extinguished flame.

Death has been an unwanted ally in the last year. Haunting my thoughts, jolting me awake at night. Dreams of my death, my life evaporating from my eyes, plague me. It keeps me up at night. Cripples me. There are times when I feel like I am not living and every day I am expected to follow the same script so others do not worry about me. Aleida, in our conversation, asked if I was suicidal.

“No, not suicidal. There’s a difference between suicide and watching yourself die.”

We die, life continues without us. One moment we exist and the next we don’t. It’s something that puzzled our ancestors, still puzzles us that we create religions, an afterlife. Dreams that, in the end, we will find peace. It would be so easy to allow myself to believe in an afterlife, to continue to exist on another plane of existence, one differing from the one I’ve found little comfort in. But I don’t. So, like my grandfather, I ask for one favor before I am buried beneath the dirt.

Gravedigger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?

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