By Melissa Mundy
It didn’t feel like the stages of grief that I had to memorize back in Psych 101, but looking back that’s exactly what it was. I refused to leave my room. I practiced catatonic abstinence from food, booze, sleep, sex, and showers.
A few times, my parents came in and tried to explain that I just had to get up, I just had to go out. I thought about it. I didn’t have my apartment inBostonanymore, and I didn’t have a job inManhattanyet. I had graduated from college and I was back home onShelterIslandto waitress for the summer and figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
But then I found out about what happened to Him, and I couldn’t imagine a life beyondShelterIsland. I couldn’t imagine traveling any further than my parents’ driveway.
My mom and dad tried to make me see reason. “It’s what people do in times likes these, Melissa. They get together. They help each other get through.” I didn’t agree. I couldn’t join the gatherings where my friends from high school vigiled all day and all night long.
From my bedroom, I could hear my mom in the living room report on what was going on outside. One day she explained why it was taking so long to make the arrangements. Everything was on hold, she said, because we had to wait for “the body” to arrive.
I lunged off my bed and flew into the living room. I wrapped my fingers around her swan like neck. “If you ever refer to Him as ‘the body’ again—” I snarled at her as my fingers clenched tighter and tighter—“If you ever refer to Him as ‘the body’ ever again I swear to God I’ll fucking—”
I only imagined doing that. It didn’t matter how my mom referred to him. I couldn’t make myself move.
* * * * * I grew up a member of a big family in a small town. My senior year of high school, my siblings and I constituted 3% of theShelterIslandSchoolpopulation. But growing up, I had so many more siblings than those 4 other kids with the same last name as me.
For thirteen years, I spent the majority of my time with these people—with Him. We were together five days a week, forty weeks of the year. I cheered for Him at basketball games. I wrote articles for the local newspaper about His cross-country meets. He was there for all of the student council meetings and play rehearsals that I was at.
On Friday nights, I would sneak out to go to house parties. On Saturday mornings, my dad would always know where I had been and the first few times I couldn’t figure out how he knew. Then, slowly, I realized it was my “big brother” tattling on me.
* * * * * Father Dan says that grief is the price we pay for love. I think about that as I sit alone in my room having conversations with myself about how to properly acknowledge, to properly honor, every day for the rest of my life, this thing that has happened.
ME: Maybe I could get a tattoo of His name in the crook of my arm? Inside my right elbow? People I meet in life will ask me, “What’s that? Who’s that? Why is He there?” They won’t be able to help themselves. I mean there I’ll be a tattoo of a name that is distinctly not the name of my husband on such a visible place on my body. But I won’t mind that they’re questioning me, because that would be the whole point. Because then, I could tell them the story of this amazing person, who everyone loved so much … It really will be such a beautiful testament.
Voice in My Head: No Melissa. It won’t be such a beautiful testament. It will be tacky. Paltry.
ME: Oh. Oh ok. So … So then what can I do?
Voice in My Head: Isn’t it obvious? You never get to be happy again. You go into mourning. You stay home. You stay in bed. Hiding.
ME: Okay. I’ll go into mourning. I’ll stay home. I’ll hide. I’ll…Wait… No…. That can’t be right. That’s too easy. That’s not what He would—If I was gone, He wouldn’t be hiding in His bedroom at His parents’ house. He would be with my family. He would be one of the few people strong enough to be alone with my dad. Hide? Never be happy again? That’s not what He would do at all.
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