I’ve been called heartless, cold, and at one point, a robot. I think the existence of my emotions have been put into question more times than anything else in my life. Sometimes, I even wonder if I have any of them. It sounds a little bit odd, but I may perceive emotionally-provoking incidents somewhat differently than the normal person would. Especially death.
So far, I’ve been to around four of my relative’s funerals. All of them occurred before my teenage years. Among the deceased, two I was very unfamiliar with — all I know about my late-grandfather is his name. When I came to the funeral service of the unfamiliars, I felt entirely nothing. I came, I saw, I popped-up my old gameboy and plunged myself into the world of Pokemon. Twice. Meanwhile, all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles were drowning themselves in tears in both of these morbid events.
Does that sound like something a normal kid would do? In some respect, maybe. I was not well-acquainted with them; I didn’t feel that I had a bond with any of the two. Perhaps my relatives were closer to the unfamiliars than I was. Which would explain why their deaths were so devastating to them. But what about the people I actually shared most of my childhood with?
Around two or three years ago, my eldest uncle — let’s call him Uncle Joe — passed away. In the years before his death, I would spend every Christmas and New Year’s Eve at his home. He was a very kind and humorous man. Even the antisocial kid I once was appreciated his sense of humor and warmth. I liked him a lot. Maybe he was my favorite uncle. But that didn’t stop the misfortunes he had on his last few days.
Before he passed, he fell sick. Very sick. I don’t remember the name of his illness, but it’s effects were utterly disturbing. He lost the ability to talk, to chew, and possibly also lost most of his cognitive processes. It was heartbreaking to watch. For his wife and son, and for the rest of my family. But not to me.
I visited Uncle Joe several times. I watched him struggle to eat and breathe. And I still felt nothing at the sight of one of the kindest men in my life dying, right in front of my eyes. Back then, I thought nothing of it. I didn’t realize how inappropriate and bizarre my response to this happening was. The more troubling thing was that I didn’t shed a tear when he was lying in a casket.
On Uncle Joe’s funeral day, almost all of my relatives showed up. They all had magnificent speeches for sending him off to the great beyond (by the way, I don’t believe in an afterlife). Almost all of them were sobbing, crying all the way until my uncle’s coffin was lowered into the ground. I forced myself to cry at that point.
I had to make myself cry when Uncle Joe died. Not because I wanted to be sad, but because I wanted to fit in. I didn’t like being the odd man out. It’s not a nice feeling. Yet what I did isn’t the right thing to do. I faked an emotion just so people wouldn’t think I’m a freak. Even though the evidences indicate I am one. The only time anything’s been different was on the first funeral I attended.
One of my other uncles — let’s call this one Uncle Sam — died when I was in elementary school. We didn’t talk to each other much. The only times my family met with him was on morning church sessions (which I rarely took part in because kid-me doubted the value of religion). Our houses were pretty close to each other’s, but something kept him from strolling into our doorstep: Uncle Sam had a limp.
On the mornings we met at church he would be dragging his lame leg forward. It’s not an easy task, I assure you. He was pretty young, but everyone could see how exhausted he looked when he entered the church’s halls. I noticed his sweaty and pale face as well and didn’t give a damn.
When the church sessions finished, Uncle Sam would ask my mother if we could offer him a ride home — he also had severe financial issues. My mother always said yes. Sadly, kid-me had other plans that couldn’t wait. The spoiled little brat that I was forced my mother to get home as quickly as possible after each church session ended. That meant leaving poor Uncle Sam in the parking lot to drag himself home. Alone. Again and again and again, until a few years later when he died.
When I heard the news, I couldn’t give less of crap. The dude died, so what? All that meant is that I would lose a lot of my free-time to show-up at my limp uncle’s crappy funeral. If anything, I should be crying for the precious hours I’ll be throwing away. If I could meet kid-me now, I’d punch him in the face for how wrong he was.
I turned up on Uncle Sam’s funeral bored and saddened by the thought of my lonely Playstation. I didn’t have anything to do there, so I thought I’d be bored. I lined-up with my relatives to say goodbye to Uncle Sam before his casket is closed-off for good. That’s when I saw the lifeless face of Uncle Sam.
I broke down in tears. My legs went weak and I started to scream, to moan. To weep. It was a confusing state to be in. My mind raced, my heart pounded like a jackhammer. I felt horrible. It’s as if I was struck by a shovel square in the chest. Seeing this, my sister and my mother lifted me away from the crowd.
I sat on the ground, hugging my knees. All the while, tears wouldn’t stop rolling down my cheeks. I kept on crying and I could not stop. I wanted, needed to say “sorry.” It was the first time I’ve ever felt guilt. I yearned to rewind the clock, back to the days when I left Uncle Sam alone in front of the church. But I couldn’t erase my mistakes, I couldn’t change the past.
To this day, I still hate myself for what I did to Uncle Sam. Maybe that’s why I can’t cry in funerals anymore — or at other similarly upsetting events. None of them affected me the same way Uncle Sam’s did. It’s not that I don’t have emotions, it’s that every death I see is overshadowed by Uncle Sam’s. All because I didn’t give Uncle Sam the rides home he deserved.
For all it’s worth, I’m sorry, Uncle Sam. I know that it’s basically useless to type this apology, but I truly am. I didn’t have a heart in those days, but now I do. I’m sorry I didn’t get one sooner. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me. I’m sorry.