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Knelt and Cried 2010

Janet Kuypers
(poetry converted to prose)

    I was in the minivan (or whatever the Hell you call dad’s new car, dr
    iven only 930 miles), dad driving, sister in the front seat, me and brother in the back seats, my husband behind me in the far back seat. and I waited at my father’s house for a while so we could go to my mother’s services... well, they weren’t services, she didn’t want that, but dad thought the kids would want to see my mother before she was cremated, so there we were, the family in ties, in black dresses, sitting and waiting in our little hearse to drive us to Fuller Funeral Home for our final visit.
    we were in the car and my husband in the far back seat, and he knew I was sad (he sensed I was crying) while the hearse took us to the funeral parlour, and he reached his hand forward to take my hand to touch my shoulder, to something. and I couldn’t see his face, but his hand was a grave consolation as our hearse rolled on to our chance to say farewell.
    I was trying not to cry in the ride in the hearse to the funeral parlour. I’ve been a good Marine; I’ve been trained to not cry. but I couldn’t help the tears at that point and I did my best to stifle them so no one would consider my sniffling and no one would question my faltering emotions.
    we had to take two separate cars, and we arrived and we were greeted when we entered. we asked where to go and they pointed the way to lead us in the right direction.
    I think we were all afraid to go into that room to see her. well, I can’t speak for anyone else, I know I was afraid. afraid of what I’d see afraid of... afraid of I don’t know what. afraid of seeing how she looked afraid of the finality of it all. just afraid.
    so, I’m the littlest one; of course I let everyone else go in before me. they’re supposed to want to see her more. that’s what I hear. we walked in and there were many seats and you could see her face, asleep, peeking out of the coffin in the distance, and we all just instinctively sat down.
    dad finally walked to her and knelt before her coffin. we watched him watch her pray for her talk to her. I don’t know what he was communicating with her. he was with her, and we all wanted that with her, one more time. one sister went next, knelt, cried, then a brother, then another brother, and I watched a procession of family members, all older than me, all apparently more important than me, all with more history with her than me and... and my husband asked if I wanted him to go with me when I walked up to see my mother.
    I thought, no, I need to do this on my own.
    I finally walked up to her, knelt before her and looked at her in the dress she wore to my wedding and thought she looked so beautiful. she looked so peaceful.
    she looked like she was sleeping.
    I hadn’t seen her that peaceful in a long time. every time I came to visit her since the disease started she always looked tired when she was awake, otherwise she was asleep and looked fitful in her rest.
    I looked at her eyebrows — they were penciled in very nicely. and I looked down at her nails and they were long, every nicely painted. and the earrings we picked for her to wear were so dainty and so lovely and the dress was so nice and she looked so peaceful. and that’s all I could keep thinking that she looked so well rested that she was just taking a good nap and she would be just fine. she had to be.
    I looked at my mother one last time. these were my final words to her face — this would be the last time I saw her... make it good, girl: you’re the one with the words. tell her what you mean in fifty words or less. that’s how these services go, don’t they?
    I told her that I loved her, and I told her that I hope that I carry on any of her kindness because that’s they way she’ll live on, because the world is filled with people who aren’t nice, who aren’t kind, and losing her makes the world a worse place. people have told me that I am kind, that I am nice, and I only hope I can do you justice... that I can somehow make this world a better place.
    like you did.
    I only hope that I can do the world justice, because the world needs you now, mom, and you had to leave us.
    so what do we do now?
    before I left her that first time I started to run my hands along my chest into a cross, because I wanted all of the spirits to know that you are there and that you are to be welcomed because you are blessed... even if it’s only from the likes of me.

Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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