Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm Craving My Brother's Grave

I've always liked cemeteries. It's easy when you don't know the people buried in them. My grandparents passed when I was still young and, before this summer, no one close to me had ever died. Cemeteries to me were just quiet greens and interesting headstones, pretty and peaceful but not much different than churches or history books or some ancient relative's portrait.

Then my brother Kyle died and we buried him. It's a beautiful spot, under a tree on a hill, and I can't get it out of my mind. The way the grass feels. How surprisingly narrow the plot is. The sun is hot in Los Angeles and when you stretch out next to my brother and put your hand where his chest would be, you can feel all the heat that the ground holds.

I fantasize about Kyle's grave. I want to be there so badly. I want to lie down on top of my brother and look up into the sky and think about his body disintegrating beneath me. I want to pull up blades of grass and see the dirt in their roots and guess how many of his atoms are in my hand. I want to eat that grass. I want to rub it in my pores. It feels wrong to want my brother inside of me, but I do. I want to dig down to the pale pine of his coffin and open it up and see all the nastiness of the earth writhing in his body. I wonder how far along he is now. If there's still any skin. If his eyes are still there. I want to pry a tooth loose from his skull and put it under my tongue.

I'm sorry mom, I'm sorry dad. This must be horrible to read. I don't mean to be hurtful, I just want to touch him again. If he has to be gone, fine, but give me something. I will let him go, I promise, but let me have something. A fingernail. A toe bone. I would walk all the way back to Los Angeles for just a pinch of the pathetic stubble he called a beard.

But I can't dig my brother up. That would be wrong, and weird, and possibly illegal. I can't visit his grave. I'm in New York and it's a long flight home. I have one of his shirts and a pair of his pants and, until I'm back in LA, I will hold his clothing, maybe I'll put it on, and I'll try my best to feel through the fabric the ghost of my brother.


cynthia said...

You haven't hurt or offended me in any way. Although my fantasies are not quite like yours, I do have the "how's it going?" question in terms of decomposition timetable. I don't stay long on that question, cause I really want to have him whole and beautiful beneath the ground.

I do visit him on Saturdays, although sometimes I forget and feel so guilty. It is very comforting and upsetting at the same time to sit and talk to him. The last time I was there a very large beetle had made a home in the bottom of the vase. That was a bit scary.

But as for how weird are your thoughts? I was watching some National Geographic TV thing and they showed people digging up their loved one. They were NOT in good shape. So I googled and here is an address with several grieving rituals including:

***In Madagascar, people dig up their dead relatives for a ceremony called famadihana. They parade the bones around the village and then bury the remains in a new shroud. The old shroud is given to childless newlyweds who place it on their bed.

***In Northern Vietnam the deceased are buried in the land in which they lived. They will generally be laid to rest in the middle of a rice paddy. After two years, the deceased's family will dig up the body, clean all of the bones, and then re-bury the body in the family garden.

so don't feel too bad and check this out:

Robin said...

Death humor, from one who's been there...but please delete, if offended!

Lately, I spend most nights in bed with my art history professor's lecture notes and while I can't say this is an erotic experience; I can say that my insights on death and dying via the early Egyptian culture have been (in keeping all things relentless to the implied theme) "aroused".

The early Egyptians (3000-2150 BC) believed that the "Ka" (or their version of the soul) lived on in an afterlife and so they had funerary temples (Great Pyramids in Giza, etc.) filled with all the fabulous stuff that the Ka would need in the afterlife - yadda, yadda. But the most interesting thing about the Ka was its need for reserve images in case the Ka's mummified body were to decay. If that happened, then the Ka would search the temple until it found an artisan's sturdy and idealized rendition of itself to embody for the duration of its afterlife.

So, I am thinking that if a discovered reserve image, such as Tutankhamen's mask, has been taken from his funerary temple and then installed in the MFA Boston and then on to NYC, etc. -and then making the grand exhibition museum tour - that's got to be an interesting way to spend an afterlife!

Soooo, maybe have an artist friend of your mum's make a reserve image (something sculpted and about 2 feet tall in diorite) from Kyle's photos and then send him on a plane from LAX to JFK.

Oh, the places he'll go!

David said...

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Abraham Lincoln- both had their sons disinterred (Lincoln twice!), simply to see them again. Yeah, it's pretty weird, but so are we all as humans; your great writing strength lies in your honesty to be able to admit it.

Sallie said...

The Greeks also dig up the bones (I believe it is after nine years) clean them , rub olive oil on them and place them in a box in a crypt in the cemetery with all the other bones .

didi979 said...

This is just plain beautiful.

katie said...

You write so beautifully, so raw. How my heart breaks for you and how I weep at your words/thoughts. Blessings, peace, and deep, deep sympathy for all that you are feeling.