The accidental death
Nine years ago my sister died in a car accident that resulted from the traffic mistake made by one of her best college friends. They were on their way to Target to develop her film and were in conversation as he took a left hand turn at a red light. Oncoming traffic hit his car. My sister died soon thereafter from the injuries she sustained. The following day, when I went to the morgue to pick up her “personal effects” I discovered the roll of film that was in her pocket along with her driver’s license. The license was bent around the dented film barrel.
We were all walking around in a state of shock that week. There were random emotional outbursts about weird things like breakfast not being ready. Anger at all the too many people at the house. I remember getting to the funeral home early for the reviewal after a few days of fasting and praying and pouring over my poem I was writing for the next morning. Once I got up too fast, and nearly passed out, while the funeral director stood poised to catch me. But the image that remains in everyone’s memory is the moment Joanna’s college choir ended their moving melody and a tangibly expectant and reverent silence grabbed the attention of every soul. Not a sound was made as Joanna’s friend, who was in the accident with her, entered the room. "He's the one!" No one said it but everyone thought it. The crowd parted for him as he walked up to her coffin alone. There was a pregnant pause. Then, my brother and I, as though queued by some invisible force, emerged from the throng of those watching, to embrace him on either side as we stood together looking down at her cold body with tears streaming down our faces.
This was only the setting scene in our journey to experiencing shared grief with all who experienced loss in the accidental death of my sister. It was only afterward, when we were told back the story of that night, that we realized the powerful message we had enacted. I only remember feeling as though I was elevated slightly out of my body as it moved around, interacting with those there. Some slipping in and out, refusing to look at the body. Others there to support and observe. Yet others, touching and embracing.