Lesson 02: A room with a view (or just a view) — my visit to the chapel of rest

Lesson 02 in learning blogging is setting, a place, a time that’s to be or been. I went with:

My visit to the chapel of rest

It was a sunshine and cloud day. I was stood outside the funeral home smoking a cigarette I didn’t want but needed. Sick nicotine. I crushed it out and knocked on the door. A lady in a grey suit answered and her smile was all I saw, sombre; she was no mirror of me, nervous. I introduced myself and she invited me in.

It was silent. All the tick of the clock did was emphasise the lack of sound; no music just stillness, no distraction just peace. There was a vase of colourful flowers on the desk, by the computer. There was a smell in the air that was sweet and spoilt and inoffensive.

“Please take a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute.”

I sat in a cushioned mahogany chair and stared at a magnolia wall.

Silence.

Just my heart beating hard in my ears. Sweaty hands. Anticipation — fear? I wasn’t scared I was terrified, I was resigned, I was trying to distract myself but everything was calm, subtle, restrained.

A landscape of mist-soaked trees. A sunset over ocean breeze. An elderly couple smiling up from a brochure. A headstone casually placed in the window. An urn on a shelf I hoped was empty. My grandmother laid out in a coffin, in a room, waiting for me — did she even know I was here?

A door closed followed by soft footsteps, a soft voice: “Everything is ready for you now,” she said.

Except me.

I nodded as I stood. I followed her down a short corridor to a closed gloss white door. Wood, panelled — there was a brass plaque that read ‘Chapel’. I read it over and over again. She was speaking but I wasn’t listening. I was reading. She knocked on the door and let me in.

My heart stopped. It was dim and cold — it smelt sweeter, staler, more inoffensive. There was a hum coming from behind another door. The cooler. The mortuary. That’s where the bodies live… I noticed her coffin. Hard wood abrupt, covered by cloth. I stepped closer. I noticed her nose poking out past the wood, nostrils indented. Closer. Her face fallen thin, just bone — grey skin over bone. Eyes closed. A slight smile on her lips. Her hands clasped over her waist — nail beds shadowed. She looked like her but she didn’t. She looked different. She looked tranquil.

I — I said “Hello, how you keeping?” And she didn’t say a thing. I asked, “What’s it like here? They treating you well?” And all I had was questions and all she had was silence. “You found grandpa yet? What’s death like? Are you at peace? You look like you are, you’re smiling.”

Free.

Questions and mindless conversation. “I got you this rose,” I placed it in her hands. And I looked at her and remembered. When I used to visit as a child. Walk the dog — visit in the home — it could’ve been different, better, but it wasn’t; that could never be.

“Goodbye,” I said. Pulled away. Turned away. Left.

It was a long walk home.