I sat in the picture window in the front living room and sighed. I would kill for a cigarette right now. Literally kill. But smoking was forbidden in Mom’s house and I was already skating on thin ice. Today would be another Ferguson family funeral. Try saying that three times fast. It seemed like we were having one a month lately. Mom was the youngest of her six siblings and she had my brother and I later in life so all our elderly aunts and uncles had been taking turns kicking the bucket as of late. Mom, being the youngest of the siblings, had taken up the tradition of holding the funerals at our house.
I wasn’t even sure which one it was this time. It wasn’t like my brother Jeremy and I were particularly close to any of them. Our family wasn’t the touchy-feely warmth kind. We did arguments better than we did hugs. I had been on campus when I got the voicemail from Mom. She had been crying and all I could make out were a few phrases like “would have loved to see you one more time” and “loved you so much” with a time and date.
Mom and I hadn’t been getting along lately so I had been avoiding her all morning. So far I had seen about three times as she prepared food for after the service and she seemed to look almost right through me so the arrangement seemed to work for her too. Every time we would talk for the last month and a half, she would be on me about my drinking as if I needed to go to rehab or join AA. Personally, I didn’t understand the problem. I think she just wanted me to be a carbon copy of Jeremy.
Jeremy was the perfect son. When he went off to college, he went to Stanford on a full ride scholarship, stayed in his room to study whenever he wasn’t in class, and graduated with honors. Now he was a CPA with a beautiful wife and three perfect children. The five of them also managed to go to Mom’s house every Sunday for dinner, despite living almost an hour away.
I, on the other hand, opted to go to state school and major in fashion. I joined a sorority and my GPA keeps me on the wrong sort of Dean’s list on a regular basis. Yes, I do drink but it’s not like she is making it out to be. I’m not sitting alone in my room with a bottle of vodka drinking my sorrows away. I’ll have a drink or two at a party on Greek Row and that’s it. I’m simply not my brother.
I could smell the telltale scent of cinnamon and butter and knew that Mom’s infamous mini cinnamon rolls had just come out of the oven. It was her signature dish for family events and even I was not immune to their lure in my present mood. I knew that going into the kitchen to snag one would mean being in the same room as Mom but I still could not resist. I got up from my post and made my way to where my treasure was promised.
Inside the kitchen, I found Mom and Aunt Gloria talking. They both were crying and saying things like how tragic it was. Maybe I had missed something? Was this funeral different? The past funerals had been because of death from old age. No one had said anything about those being tragic. They had celebrated the long and beautiful lives of my aunts and uncles. I didn’t want to interrupt and neither one seemed to acknowledge my presence, once again, so I simply snagged a few mini cinnamon rolls and quietly exited through the door to the backyard.
As I popped the first delicious pastry into my mouth, I realized I was not alone in the yard. I found Jeremy and his wife, Casey, pushing their kids on our old swing set. The kids were crying and Jeremy and Casey were trying to comfort them. The scene was odd. The kids had been present at the other funerals but hadn’t seem to pay much attention to anything but the food let alone cry. Maybe they had finally started to understand the concept of death. They were at the ages where those types of things happened.
Jeremy seemed to look my way but he didn’t wave me over or show any sign of acknowledging me. It hurt my feelings a little but I understood considering what he was dealing with. I figured I should give them space so I headed back inside. Besides, the funeral should be starting soon anyway. I ate the last of my mini cinnamon rolls and walked back inside. This time the kitchen was empty, which told me that I was right about the funeral starting shortly.
I headed to our sunroom, which is where the funerals were always held. Sure enough, everything was set up and people had started to take their seats. As everyone entered, they would walk up to the casket to pay their respects and then find an empty place to sit. I got in line with everyone else to make my way to the casket. It was still odd that no one had said anything to me all day but my family was odd.
As I waited, I started to hear a few snippets from the people who were seated. My cousin Theresa on my left said, “It’s so sad. She was so young. And to die while driving drunk is just so horrible. Her poor mother!” I turned my head to stare at her. Who could she possibly be talking about? Jeremy and I were the only young cousins in the family and no one really drank alcohol besides me.
I heard my second cousin Robert on my right choke out a sob. “Poor Anna. This has been her biggest fear since she left for college.” I almost snapped my neck turning my head so fast to look at Robert. Anna was my mother’s name and I was the only cousin in college. He was holding a program in his hand. I leaned forward to squint at the picture on the front. How could this be possible? The picture on the front was my senior picture from high school.
Was this some sort of joke? Was this my Mom’s way of scaring me so that I’ll stop drinking? Well, it was working. I was scared. But why was everyone else so convincing. She didn’t need to take this so far. There were family members here that had flown out from across the country. Unless…
No, it couldn’t be possible. I ran past the line of people waiting to pay their respects at the casket and went straight to it. When I reached the casket, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I opened them again and looked into the casket. Inside the casket was… me. I was wearing the same outfit that I had worn to the Phi Beta Theta party on Friday night. I tried as hard as possible to remember what had happened after that party but I couldn’t remember a thing. I turned around and looked at my family and friends gathered together to mourn their loss of me. I saw Mom and Jeremy in the back, holding each other and crying. I knew now that this was my funeral and it was too late to change it.