The first time I attended a funeral I was in middle school. I didn’t know the person. She was the mother of my 5th grade teacher. My mom was being guided by advice that said, “Take your children to their first funeral, but don’t let it be someone they know too well.”
I find it to be strange advice. Was it supposed to prepare me for what a funeral would be like for someone I knew? Was it supposed to make the eventual loss of a family member or friend easier to take? If the answers to the previous questions were yes, well then, her advice failed miserably. The only thing I remember feeling as I walked past the open casket of the woman I’d never met was that her skin looked waxy and fake.
A funeral for someone you love and care about is not the same, and nothing that I have experienced in my life prepared me for it.
On the night of August 25, 2016, the life of my uncle ended. While the police may have ruled it a suicide, my family seeks answers beyond the determined cause. They are searching for a cause that isn’t condemned by their faith. New evidence may shine new light on this terrible event, but I ask myself, how much does the cause of his death matter?
I don’t mean to sound callous or cruel, but from what is known, he was under immense stress and pressure from all aspects of his life.
Yet, in the end, his life is still over. Whether he ended it himself or someone else pulled the trigger, whoever pulled the trigger was in immense pain. It was a pain that ended a life. It was a pain that was missed. One that no one saw coming, and regardless of how or why, he will be deeply missed.
The days leading up to the funeral, I stayed with my family at his house. It was a surreal experience on many levels. On one hand, I kept waiting for him to walk inside. I kept wanting to ask him when he thought he’d be out to Albuquerque to ski this winter. I kept wanting to tell him about recently going white water rafting and camping. But, reality would hit with a sobering shock. Yet on the other hand, the last time I had been at his house I was at the lowest point in my entire life. I didn’t think I could keep going. I was so tired and hurt so much, and I realized that if I ever said anything about why I felt this way, I would lose everything I had strived for. Oddly though, I decided . . . and I am not entirely sure why, I decided to speak my truth and came out as transgender.
So needless to say, being there at this place, his house, well, it packed quite the emotional little vice about me. I was sad. I was disappointed. And, I was surrounded by people who felt betrayed at a life cut short.
Tears were shed. A lot of tears.
But like most things in life, at least worthwhile moments in life, sadness was not the only emotion gleamed and experienced.
During my four days on my unexpected and unfortunate jaunt back to Oklahoma, there were a few familial moments that made realize how far I had come and that maybe my future wasn’t all doom and gloom with them.
Although on my ride to the funeral home to take a picture of my uncle that had been overlooked for the slideshow, my mom lovingly chimed in with, “Dealing with this loss is incredibly hard, but dealing with what you are going through is so much harder.”
That was my favorite what-the-fuck-moment. I mean, what the fuck? Me being transgender is harder to deal with than your brother dying? Huh? Perhaps what makes her comment even better was that she prefaced it with, “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, but . . . ” No! I hate those types of qualifiers! You can’t say, “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings” to only follow it by something that will, in fact, probably, deeply hurt someone’s feelings.
It’s a “I don’t mean to be rude, but . . .” or “I’m not trying to sound racist, but . . .” Trust me. Whatever you are about to say is about to be rude or racist. Now, I’m not trying to be judgemental here but, oh wait, I totally am being judgemental here. I own that shit. I judge your qualifiers.
Other glorious WTF moments include many things that could darken opinions of people I care about, so I won’t include them here. I mean everyone was pleasant to me. I am not “out” to most of them . . . for many reasons. Yet, I was constantly told how good I look.
“You are looking really good.”
“You look really great.”
To each of these, I hid a I-know-something-don’t-know smile. Was it the hormones? My newfound aura? Did I stand a little straighter because the mountain has been chipped away? . . . Most likely, the hormones.
As the days ground on and I continued to be barraged by a never-ending plague of the sky-is-falling work emails, the wake was upon us. It was horribly upsetting, but it felt like the send off deserving of a loved one. Tears were shed while friends and family told their favorite stories. Childhood, college, and recent stories were shared, and for a moment, they captured the light and life he once held. The reality of the loss began to creep in, and I cried. I shook and wept.
But, when I needed a reprieve from my tears, I found one. I looked at my brother. Now, I don’t mean to sound terrible, but . . . dammit . . . even, I am doing it here.
Okay, fine. I sound terrible.
But, through my tears I would look at his face, and I would feel saddened by his pain. A pain I shared, but holy moley, that kid is the ugliest cryer ever.
I sound like a schmuck.
But seriously, he is like movie quality ugly cryer bad. His face contorts like some kind of viper, and he just kind of spasms, while looking like a toothless James Carville. He makes a face that shouldn’t even be possible. And, yes, I get it. Acknowledging that my brother should receive the Ugliest Cryer award is harsh, but there were moments, when I managed to stop crying, that I thought, “How is no one else seeing thing? Seriously? Can someone just be a second judge to this contest?”
It reminded me of when I came out to my family during, Day 2: Let’s Pile on the Guilt and Bring Up Satan event. My brother is on the couch and cries out, “You’re my brother” and his face goes all Linda Blair meets Jigsaw for the tears, and I feel horrible about his pain . . . but, someone needs to acknowledge this face being made. Yet, no one did then. Probably, because I was being reminded that lesbian don’t exist and that I was possessed by demons.
No one noticed this time, and I understand. It is just one of those things that I can’t not notice. Like when on the last day of school my senior year of high school, a classmate pointed out my teacher’s camel toe. No, I had never seen it before, but that last day of school, it was all I saw. It was all I saw. All. I. Saw.
The funeral, a Catholic mass ritual, was less what I think my uncle deserved. It was all pomp and circumstance. While it was led by an overly enthusiastic priest that reminded me of a more flamboyant Ru Paul, it just felt so superficial. Here’s some incense. Here’s some holy water. Here’s some goblets. Here’s a story about how great Christ was and if you love Christ, you’ll have eternal life. Okay, on to communion now, but wait, you have to sit down non-Catholics, this tasteless wafer is only for certain sheep.
Was I the only one that noticed priest Ru Paul?
Was I the only one that noticed that the entire service was about how accepting and loving and forgiving God is . . . but his metaphorical cannibalism is still only for Catholics?
Okay, then. Fine. It was just me.
But, should I, as the transheep of the family, really been the one to carry the coffin to the hearse? I mean, I know whoever decided clearly is in the dark end of a closest, but shouldn’t my uncle’s adult daughters helped instead of his 11 year old son?
Or, am I the only one that noticed this misogyny? Am I the only one that saw it as a missed opportunity for his daughters to say another goodbye?
While I stayed teary throughout the service, I didn’t outright sob until the end. The end, when I hugged my dad.
The end, when I sobbed uncontrollably into the shoulder of the man who claimed I’m possessed.
It wasn’t intended. Especially because I was still perturbed by the fact that when I called to tell him about my new car he asked about the elephant in the room by asking about the elephant in the room. I mean. I didn’t even know people used that phrase in real life. I was wrong.
But in the end, I cried.
I cried for the people I hurt.
I cried for the guilt I had and still have.
I cried for the life I had.
I cried for the life I have now.
I cried for the better job, and the friends I have.
I cried because I feel more myself, and he is not a part of it.
I cried because my uncle will never be able to tell my dad that he’s acting like an asshole.
I cried because I miss the dad I thought I had.
I cried because I miss my uncle.
I cried because he’s gone.
In the end, all I can really say is that I miss him.
And, it is horribly disappointing that he is no longer a part of my life and the lives of his friends and family.