It was a normal and warm day in May. Well, about as warm as it's going to get in Cleveland. I was 12 years old and I had heard the news a few days ago that my Aunt Kathy's sister, Karen, had died. I had never met her, or at least not as I remember. I was told that I had to go to the wake. I didn't really want to, but I knew I had to go to support my aunt.
It was a long drive there, but it was manageable. When I stepped into the funeral home, I knew something wasn't right. I saw an older woman in her casket as I walked down the hall. I couldn't help but think how peaceful she looked. Then I realized she was the only one looking at peace. I walked into the room where my aunt's sister was. Before I even looked at her, I felt a sense of dread in the air. The air was so heavy that it was almost hard to breathe. My mom had told me before that the woman had passed away from cancer. She was told about it Thursday and died the next Tuesday. She left behind her husband and fourteen-year-old son.
I didn't want to, but my mom made my wait in line to kneel by the casket and say a prayer. I did not want to look at Karen, but I felt I had to. When it was our turn to kneel, I gave my mom a look saying that I didn't want to kneel and she gave me a look back saying that I had to. My mom, my little brother, and I kneeled beside Karen. Her body, covered in soft white fabric and surrounded with family pictures, lay in front of me. But she did not look peaceful like the woman I had seen while I was walking down the hallway. Karen looked like she was not ready to die. And I believed that with all my heart.
I said a short prayer and quietly stepped away from the casket, but something was telling me not to. I dreaded looking at Karen's face, but something was forcing me to. I said hello to my cousins, uncles, and aunts while trying to put a fake smile on my face. I looked down to see that my shoelace had come untied. As I leaned down to tie it, I noticed that the lights in the funeral room had quickly flickered.
After about an hour, my family headed back to the parking lot. As I walked away, I couldn't help but look back at Karen's body lying there, her face filled with sadness.
When I got home later that day, I burst into tears. I had never known Karen, yet I felt like I had for fifty years. There was no longer that sense of heaviness in the air. Every time I think about that wake, I burst into tears at the thought of Karen's body lying there. Like I said, I don't know why I feel that I have such a connection with her. I guess I will never know. But the one thing that I know for sure is that living people were not the only people whose spirits were filling the funeral home that day.