“What happened to your Son?”
“What was the cause of death?”
“Isn’t it he too young to die?”
“It must have been painful for you.”
“Why was he cremated?”
These were some of the questions that we had to answer from the people who went on my brother’s wake.
I was just sitting there listening to them as they ask my mother nonstop for details regarding my brother’s death. In my mind why was it so important for them to know all of the details? Why were they there in the first place? Were they there to console us or were they there because they’re curious as to why my brother died and they wanted to hear the information straight from the horse’s mouth?
It was just so painful seeing my mother give these people answers but still trying to withhold private and important information. It was just so frustrating hearing my mother lie just to protect us from those people’s judgments and scrutiny once they know the truth. It was just so infuriating having my mother who was still grieving, answer them politely as if she owe them explanation on what had happened.
How could people be so insensitive? How could they be so rude? How could they be so oblivious to the pain they were causing us by asking those questions?
As people come and go in my brother’s wake, it seemed that my Mom had become accustomed to people’s questions. Her lies had become so consistent I could almost believe in them. Her answers had become so uniform as if she was reading a script. She was so calm and there were no traces of mourning in her face.
My father on the other hand, welcomed the visitors as if it was just like an ordinary day. He offered them liquors and drank with them. He laughed with them as if he forgot that it was because of his son’s death they were there.
My sister talked to the visitors as if she was not that affected on our brother’s death. She entertained them with her usual bright smile. My niece seemed to enjoy having many people in the house.
It was already 2 AM and people started leave, the flickers of the candle’s light, the cry of the crickets and the sound of stiffed electric fan became noticeable. Then we were left alone: my mother picking up used paper cups; my father getting another set of candles; my sister putting her daughter to sleep; and I arranging the chairs and tables.
It honestly felt better hearing the noise of the visitors’ chit chat, the clatter of the papers cups, the crunch of biscuits, and the silent laughs of people exchanging jokes, and also the monotonous tone of the prayer leader as she recited the novena. It made me feel less lonely.
My mother was not crying anymore, my father’s face was not so stiff anymore, my sister could already laugh at other people’s jokes and it seemed like it was only me who felt so miserable. Had they moved on? I asked myself.