Who knew when I met you in November, you’d be dead in May. Or that you’d die like my mother. That was a slap in the face.
It’s the morning of your funeral and I’m at the Walgreen’s by my house. I grab boxes of soda and candy for your family, a plastic plant, and a scented candle for your mother. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want to do something with limited time and resources.
My friend, your girlfriend, picks me up at the store and we go to the mortuary. It hasn’t changed much over the years, with the notable exception that the old undertaker who opens the door, wears a mask.
There’s twelve of us in the sanctuary. Your parents, uncle, a cousin, and siblings. Your ex-girlfriend is here too, all the way from Florida. Everyone is spread out, socially distanced, and wearing obligatory masks. You’re up front in a rented coffin, dressed in your familiar flannel jacket. That’s all that’s familiar. You’re bloated up to your father’s size. I wouldn’t have recognized you had we met in the street.
Apparently, during a pandemic, the funeral home runs low on Catholic Spanish speaking priests. Instead, there’s a budget pentecostal woman with a man to punctuate her loud preaching. I understand the sermon in words and short phrases here and there. Something about you being in the arms of Jesus. Your mother weeps and asks people to come up. We are last. My friend tells your corpse that I was willing to give you part of my liver. I feel tears coming. It is what it is. I can never save anybody.
On the way to your house, we stop by Family Dollar to get some prayer candles. The cashier tells us they’re very useful to have in hurricanes. Your mother has a giant shrine at the family home, flowers and candles everywhere. There’s you as a smiling baby, as a grinning teen, and finally a photo of you at 33. No one would know you just had a couple months to live or the secret habit that led you to become septic.