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I was sitting on the purple speckled floor of the relief society room, playing with the restless 2-year-old. I had a grey dress on covered in pink flowers, my hair at its best, and my emotion unreadable. My mother stood next to the grey open casket as person after person walked up and hugged her. The tears were rolling down everyone's faces, and it seemed at the moment, no one was breathing. This death was untimely; he was too young. The celebration that usually came with grandparents, the knowledge that he was in a better place, was all distant. Because we all wanted him back.
My 2-year-old brother was now fatherless and my mom was broken, and I was holding it in. He was one of the most important people in my life. Every day I was so grateful that we finally found it, finally found a complete family. A person to love who wouldn't hurt us, who we wouldn't have to leave. For five years he was the male figure in our house; for five years he taught me how to be respectful and kind and responsible. I learned a lot from him.
I sat on the floor in the church, making jokes, holding back tears, distracting the little ones from the devastating truth of the room. We kept asking, Ryan, his son, to go say goodbye to daddy. He was only sleeping. Only sleeping... if only that were the truth. This was the kind of sleep you don't wake up from. Ryan refused to go up to the casket. He was terrified. Yet, he still kept asking, “Where's Daddy?”
This was undoubtedly the worst moment of my entire life. The moment that you lost everything you ever hoped to have. Plus, it was the moment I had to grow up. I had to make sure that everything was okay, that everyone else stayed breathing. That's the reason I held back my tears and played with the small ones. I had to be brave, one of us had to be okay. I was 12, only 12 and I felt the need to grow up and be strong. In these moments it defined something in me as a person. I would always give the carrot to others before myself.
I felt that now, it was my responsibility. So I crossed my legs, tucked my hair behind my ears, and sat emotionless. I couldn't show them. I couldn't let them know that I was falling apart. That every moment was more excruciating than the last. I wanted to know why bad things happened. I wanted to know why cancer existed. I wanted to know why he died when there was an 80 percent chance that he would live.
This was the hardest moment. I stood up and walked over to the casket, seeing his face for the last time. Although, it wasn't his. This face wasn't the face I had known for the last five years. This face was yellow, and lifeless, and there was no hair. But there should be. His eyes were permanently shut, his mouth set in a firm line. This wasn't him. This was a stranger, this was merely a body. I learned that bodies don't make people.
This was all wrong. This wasn't the way I would remember him. I promised myself that my memory of him would be smiling and laughing so hard that he couldn't breathe, over that stupid Doritos commercial. And how he was so accepting and welcoming to marry into a broken family, to love my sister and me as his own. To never forget how carefree and brilliant he was. They set the lid down. For a final time. I would never see him again. That was it. The cries in the room became louder and my mom touched the top of the casket. We all wished he would come back. That this moment, this horrible moment of misery, would end and it would be a terrible nightmare. A long, roller coaster of a nightmare, as long as he came back to us.
Although, that wouldn't be the case. The casket was closed, and my heart burned for a longing that could never be calmed.