It's strange, so strange, the things you feel you have to do when there is a death in the family. Shopping for clothes, for instance. We're not the sort of family who keeps shoes and suits on hand for kids who grow two inches overnight. So I went shopping. And every step was heavy, and I felt like I was further betraying my father with every step and every breath I took.
It's a sympathetic biological response, but I didn't and couldn't recognize that this feeling of disassociation--being underwater and detached--was a coping mechanism. "How can I be shopping?" Then the mixed emotions, seeing my son in a suit, looking manly, and my daughter prim and perfect in her veddy proper attire. I buried the burst of pride I felt with a shovelful of shame--it seemed so disrespectful.
and then there was this--
I thought of the burial of my beloved Dog as we shopped; (and yes, I felt more guilt for the comparison) My dog Bubba, was an adored dog. I won't say that he was "like a child" to me--because I don't dare tempt the gods of tempered understanding by being so offhand with such an analogy. I have become more cautious with what I "throw out there". Still though, I recalled the morning that Bubba died, and how I was glued to my chair, unable to comfort him. I'm still not sure if he would have known I was there, but I witnessed his death. That was the first and only leaving of spirit that I can say I was "there" for--and yet, I wasn't there. Bubba made that deathknell sound--the one I'd only heard about--it was loud and startling, but I knew what it was somehow. Me, being me, I later looked up medical reasons for that sound, and the tomes all theorized about gases and intestines and involuntary expulsions, and I still think, that when you hear that sound, the dying is struggling to stay--nod, involuntary expulsion )they know the grief that will be forthcoming, and that bizarre sound (which I can only describe as an amplified bathtub fart) is the sound of the soul gripping the walls of the physical--trying to stay while being expulsed.
My husband had to work that day. I woke him and said, "Bubba died. Help me move him from the kitchen before the kids wake up."
So we placed his stiffening body on a blanket and carried him that way to a table outside--he was a big dog, and heavy. He'd require a big hole and we knew it. My husband told me to wait and he would come home as soon as he could to help me.
So he left, and I covered Bubba with the blanket. But I couldn't rest with him lying there that way.
I didn't even own a proper shovel, but I had a hand-shovel I used to do my "potted plant" gardening.
So I walked the backyard, searching for a spot that I could handle. I found it next to the shed, where the previous owners had made a "wormbed"--bait, for fishing in the pond out back. The ground gave easily, and I sat there, a cigarette dangling from lips, shoveling handfuls of earth at a time, to a mound beside me as I sat in the May sun, cross-legged and intent.
I had a beautiful garden then--and I was accustomed to the digging. Bubba used to lie beside me, watching intently, every shovelful. That dog loved worms. When I would unearth one, all twisty and alive, he would bark gleefully, and look at me, like, "well wouldja look at that?" Wagging his tail and doing that happy dog dance.
As I dug Bubba's grave, I found myself absentmindedly stopping and patting the growing mound of dirt next to me, warmed by the sun. I cried only with the realization that it felt like Bubba, alive and warm, faithful and curious, still somehow next to me.
It took me four hours, but I dug Bubba's grave with a handshovel.
This is what I thought about as I shopped for funeral clothes for me and my family. I wondered, too, if we, as a society, had lost something that was a healing when we began to pay others to tend to our dead for us.
And yes, I worried, worried, worried that something inevitable had finally begun--and I wondered if it showed on my face as I shopped.
The day after my father died I went shopping. That felt strange then and it feels strange now.
And still, even then, I didn't apprehend the inner explosion what was about to occur in me, and I didn't comprehend how deep it can go.
But the fact that I can only discuss bits at a time is an indication.