Death. Don’t like that word; then again, I don’t think its one that rings happy melodies in one’s head. Of course, it’s evident that all of us, one day, will come to the end of our road. But at the end, when we look behind us and question ourselves, Wow what was that all about? What did it mean? Did I have a purpose? Did I need a purpose? What will the answers be?

These are the questions that repeat over and over in my head every time I attend a funeral. In my 26 years of existence, to date, I’ve lost as many friends as I can count on one hand.  One to a heart attack. One to a fatal car accident. One to a hit and run. Recently, one year ago, lost a very good friend, coworker and ‘faux- sister’, Amanda. Amanda was 23 years old when she was taken from us, on the night of Nov.3, 2009. We worked together for about three years, many times customers got us mistaken for the other. People would come tap me on the shoulder calling me Amanda, and she would get the same, people calling her Camille. We played along with it, and referred to each other as sisters. It was always entertaining to see how many people bought into our alleged sister relation.

Amanda

Beautiful girl...

Because of the nature of our job, the bar & grille didn’t close down until 2:30 am. Many of us had long, dark rides home. Amanda’s way home was on a state route that winded through a conservation area, heavily wooded and lacking street lights. On the night she died, I was not working. I got a frantic call the following morning from a mutual friend, voice shaky on the phone, telling me of Amanda being in a fatal car crash. When she told me that, I was in instant denial. “What? No way, are you serious? Where?” The friend explained that when the state highway patrol had come to the scene, Amanda had flipped her car several times, taking out some trees. She was pronounced dead at the scene, from a broken neck. They speculated that perhaps a deer had run out in front of her and she had swerved to miss it, over-corrected and crashed. I didn’t believe it. I entered her name on Google just to be sure, and there it was, an obituary listing and numerous articles from area newspapers reporting the fatal crash. My heart sank. I got a heavy feeling over me. Tears welled up in my eyes. I just couldn’t believe it…my work ‘sis’ was gone. There were so many unanswered questions…How, why, what if?

I attended Amanda’s funeral along with some coworkers. I picked up my friend Kim, also a coworker, and we very slowly, hesitantly drove to the funeral home. When we got there, the funeral home was packed full of family and friends. There were a few poster boards showcasing collages of Amanda, photos from young to old. We all gathered in a waiting room where a large television screen broadcasted Amanda’s mother giving a speech about her daughter’s life. Behind her was Amanda in the casket, adorned with countless floral arrangements. Standing there in my black and grey dress, I listened intently to her mother reminiscing about her daughter, from her childhood, to hobbies, interests, and just remembering the person that she was. The one thing her mother noted was how she hated the thought of Amanda driving late at night. It worried her ill. The fact that Amanda’s time of death was around 2:30 AM, solidified her mother’s deepest fears. Heartbreaking. Alas, I was amazed at her composure and strength. Not one time did she allow her emotions to overtake her. I wondered myself if I could’ve done the same had I been in her position at that moment. A few other people took the podium, noted some memories about Amanda, what they will miss, some were emotional messes and others, seemingly collected. I was collected until the viewing began, when Kim and I walked up to the casket to pay our respects.

Don’t get  me wrong, I didn’t really want to go up to the casket, I didn’t want to see her like this, but there was a part of me that had to, in order to gain closure. This has always been a revolving theme with me when it comes to death. I am in straight denial that the death even occurred until I see them in the casket. People can tell me that someone passed, but in my mind, for some reason, I always think that they’re still going to call, that they’re still going to jump out from the corner, that they’re still going to be hanging around, like they used to…Kim and I held hands as we approached, I peered down and there was my ‘sis’. It was difficult to look at her, but I did. There was noticeable swelling around her hairline and forehead, probably from the impact of the car crash, the bruises were somewhat noticeable even under the makeup. Her nose looked broken…to see her like this broke my heart. All I could think was, did she die in pain? Did she suffer? They kept her ruby red lips, which Amanda wore so well. She was like the classic brunette beauty, possessing a timeless femininity, with porcelain skin and false eyelashes. Man she loved those things, she was like a pro when it came to applying them. She offered to put some on  me one night, but I was too busy serving and told her next time…too bad there wasn’t  ever going to be a next time… I didn’t like the clothes they put her in, it wasn’t Amanda’s style. It was some old beige V-neck top, something you’d find in the Misses section at a department store. Amanda was more of a Pacific Sunwear lover, or Famous, and Charlotte Russe. I cried out to myself, This isn’t her! This isn’t something she’d wear! I looked over at Kim, she had brought a small Rosary with her. Clutching it, she held onto the edge of the casket, tears rolling down, rehearsing the “Hail Mary” over and over. I suddenly couldn’t contain my emotions anymore and let out a muffled, choked cry. Kim and I held each other, and soon we were joined by other coworkers who knew Amanda, we all consoled each other, in front of her casket, crying into each other’s arms and wiping tears. It was indeed one of the saddest days of my life.

I only stayed by Amanda’s casket for about 3 minutes, I couldn’t take it. It was too much. Kim and I said our final goodbyes, clutched our memory cards and bolted out the front door, not looking back. I had my closure, that was indeed done, and I didn’t want to relive this day again.

A few days after the funeral, was out and about, saw some pretty pink flowers, thought of Amanda. I knew some of my coworkers had gone out to her crash site and laid mementos down, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it just yet. I bought those pink flowers, and they remained in my car trunk for one year. It took me one year to push myself to go out and pay her a visit. Never seeing the crash site before, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew where the road was but was unsure of the crash location. Kim had told me that the site was marked with a bright pink cross, with her name painted across it. I drove out there.

The road was a heavily traveled one, with the average speed carried on by most cars about 65 mph. They flew on that road. It took me about three times of passing back and forth until I finally noticed that little pink cross. Tears welled up in my eyes. I approached the site. She crashed near a bend in the road, with a sharp curve to the right. I reached into my trunk for the flowers that had spent one year in my trunk and slowly approached. I noticed an area where there were no trees. Pain washed over me. 😦

Amanda's beautiful memorial...

It was nice to see many people’s donations of sympathy, love and memory. The tree was covered with flowers, photos, and candles. I took my pink flowers and stuck them in an open space between the bark. I looked around solemnly at the site, curious to what had happened to my ‘sis’ that night. My mind began racing with thoughts.

The crash site

It was hard to be there, that close to where she lost her life…I didn’t have a dry eye while visiting it. I stayed for about six minutes, quietly spoke to her under my breath, I told her that I loved and missed her, and I hoped she was okay…up there, wherever she was. I then got in my car and made a fast exit, the tears rolling down my face.

The months following my friend’s death brought on a slew of thoughts. It made me think about people, about relationships, about chasing what’s important to you, about fulfilling a dream or goal, about realizing what’s important and what’s not. About how to welcome every waking day on this Earth as a gift. To live life. It made me think about how I would like to be remembered whenever my final day came…Sometimes, we think this life on Earth is the only one granted to us, but not to forget, there’s an even greater one waiting on the other side…

 

To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.  ~Samuel Butler

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