I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning thinking about the last time I saw Zach. It wasn’t really Zach at that point. It was just his body.
We were at the funeral home on the Tuesday afternoon of that week in Baton Rouge. For some reason, I don’t remember Sarah but I remember Jeremy being there. Zach was lying up at the front of the little chapel and there was a railing with a kneeler in front of it. I didn’t kneel, but I touched Zach’s lower leg and I remember thinking that it felt like him: solid and muscular. I don’t know anything about rigor mortis and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it then. Maybe it was just rigor mortis.
Of course, I looked at his face and I thought it was odd that they had put a bunch of pancake makeup on him. It was much later that I saw the police photos of the accident scene and I realized how horrific the injury to his head had been.
I didn’t feel any need to pray over his body or ‘say goodbye’ or anything like that. I wanted to touch him to convince myself it was all real. Emily was towards the back of the chapel with her mother and sisters. We would have been meeting in California in about a month’s time but I went back there and introduced myself and we all talked quietly.
At one point, I remember looking up to the front and saw Jeremy kneeling there and I thought maybe I should go and do that too. But I didn’t want to interrupt him and later people starting moving to leave. I don’t remember where we were going. We certainly weren’t rushed by the funeral home but a consensus seemed to develop that we were done.
The next day we went back and got the ashes.
I had them at my apartment for a long time. I believe I wrote about that. It wasn’t Zach – neither was the body – but it was the closest I had. Now ‘he’ is here:
In the end it’s all memories, which is why I write here. Our oral tradition is pretty much gone unless you count videos. There’s a chance these memories will survive for Rosalie and Noah and maybe their children to read and know a little bit about their ancestors. I know I would have eagerly read stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents. Eventually, their world recedes but their personalities would have shone through, I believe.