Monday, January 18, 2010
...my Sunday candy companion...
I had never seen a dead body. At the funeral home the casket was open and Bobby lay there peacefully, hands folded a top one another, eyes closed, with skin so pale. I stared at him for a long time - hoping beyond hope that he would open his eyes, sit up, yell "Surprise!", and laugh uncontrollably about the great hoax he had pulled off. He did not.
His death created tangles in my little mind. Every route my thoughts travelled was blocked by a comprehension knot. I know my mother tried to explain, but my mind working hard, in its own way, to understand the meaning of it all wanted to be left alone to sort it all out. If Bobby could die, then . . .???
I had never witnessed grief. Bobby was Bessy Penney's only child. She must have had him late in life. I did not know that hearts could break and bodies contort with grief. Seeing her being held up by friends made me go numb. How could all this be happening? Sometimes she would collapse in half and rock back and forth. Other times she would throw her head back, cover her face with a handkerchief and try to muffle the strangest sounds. The sounds and movements frightened me like the horror flicks at the cinema.
I had no idea life could be so cruel and that people could mutate into something other than themselves because of the immensity of their pain. Now, even more than not wanting to swallow my tongue - I never wanted to experience the nightmare of symptoms that I saw emerge in Bessy after Bobby's death.
Bobby's mother did not come to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall on Avenue Road for a while. My mother told me it was hard for her to come to a place where she had always come with her only child, Bobby, by her side. When she did return it was with an elderly, rather regal-looking beau by her side. They were soon to be married, it was said. Once married she was no longer to be called Bessy Penney. They said she insisted on being called Elizabeth Martin.
I used to stare through the rows of other worshippers at this new incarnation of Bobby's mother - Elizabeth Martin. Her new husband sat in Bobby's usual chair. It was as if Bobby and Bessy had been erased. Before Bobby died she was Bessy Penney. After Bobby died she was Elizabeth Martin. I wondered if this was a rule I had missed: after a loved one dies and you complete your crying, you must change your name.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the faithful who die before Armageddon, will be miraculously resurrected here on Earth to live forever with those who have survived the destruction of this wicked system of things. Thus, the good news was that Bobby would be back shortly as Armageddon and the resurrection were just around the corner, so to speak. He would emerge from his coffin and grave. His eyes would open. He would step out into paradise and ask for his mother: "Where is my mother?" They would reply, "Well who is your mother?" "Bessey Penney", he would answer. But there would be no Bessy Penney to be found. Would he ever find Elizabeth Martin? Would they be re-united? Would Bobby love Elizabeth as much as he had loved Bessy? Stay tuned.....all will be revealed in paradise - 'the new order' of things.
Thus was I introduced to death, grief, and morphing identities. As questions about Bobby's future in paradise remained unanswered, more questions arose about life, death and religion in general. I kept them to myself, however, preferring to work them out on my own than discuss them with the true believers at the Kingdom Hall on Avenue Road.
I have no memories of going for candy, between sermons on Sundays, after Bobby my candy companion died.