I saw my nan in the chapel of rest a couple of days before her funeral. It was just me and my grandad – we’d invited my mum but she said no, she didn’t want to see her like that. That might explain why she never visited her in hospital. She asked me to put a flower in the coffin.
I remember sitting in the waiting area. I remember noticing how blank my mind was. Totally frozen. As sad as it is to say, her death wasn’t going to change our day-to-day life all that much – aside from the huge scar that was left after she was ripped out and taken away from us, anyway. I just didn’t know what to make of it all. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and my brain just kind of stalled, unable to process what had happened or what it meant.
Grandad went in to see her first. He came out a while later, eyes wet, clutching his hat. He looked at me. ‘They’ve made her look lovely,’ he said. ‘Go on. Say goodbye.’
I went in. I can’t remember a thing about the room – I’m assuming it would have been cold, but I can’t even remember whereabouts the coffin actually was. I think it was to my right as I walked in. All I remember is the coffin, and my nan.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a chapel of rest, but it’s basically just you having a chat with a corpse. I had simultaneous feelings of ‘this is totally normal’ and ‘this is creepy as hell’. It isn’t really creepy; it’s just kind of weird to be literally talking to the dead.
She did look lovely. They’d covered all the bruises, they’d put some colour back into her face and they’d reinflated her a little bit when they embalmed her, so she looked much more like the way she did before she got incredibly sick.
I stood at the side of the coffin, just looking at her for a while. (Brain: Are her lips sewn shut? Me: Don’t even fucking start with that shit.) I placed the flower in the coffin, close to her hand, and then I wondered whether or not I was allowed to touch her. Are you even meant to? I don’t know, but I did it anyway. I stroked her forehead. Okay, she’s definitely dead. That’s a most un-alive temperature.
Oh fuck, this is real.
I’m not an expert in funeral home etiquette, but I assume I’m not the first person to leave behind a tear-stained corpse.
And that was the last time I saw her.