Swing Low Sweet Chariot

I suppose that after days of sickness and with Easter approaching, one might feel a bit melancholic. And when the feeling to write hits you, you just gotta do it. Trigger warning, childhood death, funeral stuff.

It was a huge church. There was even a balcony. It seemed way too much for the tiny white coffin that stood at the front. Is that the right word? Stood? My brother hadn’t been able to stand in years, but now his coffin could do it for him.

I don’t remember much of the service but the vastness. The wrongness. There in the back was where the preacher had wrapped his hand around my face, his fingers clamping my nose closed. But it wasn’t the only thing that got closed in that church. In those pews. My legs. My mind.

I reached out for him. Clasped his arms as he held me down. Under the water. A sense of wonder and fear all wrapped up into one.

Is he the same one talking about my brother today? Who knows. When you’re being held down, held under, it’s not the man that matters. It’s the god.

The god. I say it in my mind with a lowercase letter. Change it to a god.
He didn’t fucking know my brother. And neither did I, I suppose. How can you know someone who goes comatose at the age of four? What can you possibly say but that he’s one of God’s angels now? And here I capitalize that shit, because it was this God, this one, that stole my brother from us. This one that let him cross the street at just the right moment. Just the right moment for that old man to mistake his gas pedal for the brake pedal.

Just the right moment for me to turn around, seated on my bike, shorts sweaty and sticking to the seat, tanned hands grasping handles with tassels. How can the sight of tassels instantly bring me back to that moment but the sight of cars do not?

How can I sit here and listen to this? But I’m not listening, am I? Not to this man. This man who promises that my brother is somewhere in some faraway place waiting for us. Just waiting for us to see him again. WE’RE RIGHT HERE!

And there his coffin stands. Holding a broken body. All the way broken. Hair doesn’t keep growing after you die, you know. Not like they say it does.

People love their psychology and their magic. Their INFJs, their cancer horoscopes, their years of the ox. Their gods. They say this and that about the first born. About the middle child. About the youngest. What do they say about the oldest who is now the onlyest?

That it’s her turn, I guess. Her turn to pay tribute to this ritual of the dead. This ritual where we pretend it isn’t the end, as if now that he’s dead and in a better place, everything will be okay. Better places make better lives.

And I sing for them. For him. For me. Does it matter who it’s for? Swing Low. Sweet Chariot. A band of angels coming to carry me home. Tears on all the faces but mine. How can I cry? The death of a child always ends in more than one broken body. When you can stand though, it’s not as obvious.

Published by JenniferClaywood

An American expat living in Sweden. I teach middle school science, have four amazing children, the best partner anyone could ask for, and not enough dogs. The dog we do have at the moment, a beautiful mutt of pointer, husky, and border collie, is one of the sweetest creatures to grace this planet. I am busy trying to get better at teaching and writing.

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