I didn’t think much about what it would be like after I died. It seems kind of stupid, looking back. But there is nothing I can do about it now. What’s done is done. Dead is dead.
I could tell you about my life before. I could tell you about the girl I was before I became this vaporous ghoul. But really, there is nothing to tell: I was a flavorless stick of gum. I was bored and boring. I was nothing and no one. And now I’m dead. And at least in death this feeling of invisibility isn’t insulting.
My name was Darby. Still is, I suppose. It was one thing I always liked about myself. When I was alive I hid behind plaid jumpers and square glasses. I had short bobbed hair with a straight fringe. I liked barrettes – those little plastic ones five-year olds wear. And knee socks. And books. But not people. I didn’t really care much for people, and no one cared for me. Not even my own family.
I guess the thing I miss most about being alive is the music. Oh, and the books. Sounds and words: two things that never let me down.
If I was to give you one piece of advice about death and dying, it would be this: do not, I repeat, do not stick around for your own funeral. I can’t imagine it working out well for anyone.
If you had people in your life who loved you it will be awful to see them moaning and crying at your grave.
If you were alone in life – and no one came to see you buried, and you were going to be alone in the afterlife – well that is terrible too.
Or, if you were like me – neutral milk – then the bland send off would leave you as uninspired in death as you once were in life.
I guess the hope I had for my life-after-death was that it would have some sort of spice to it – some excitement. I wanted to make things happen: to make waves, see reactions – to know that I had some effect. I thought for certain my funeral would be just the affair. I was sadly mistaken.
I stayed with my body (what was left of it) out of morbid curiosity. I didn’t feel anything tying me to it. It was quite the opposite. I tried to approach myself more than once in that first 24 hours but it was like coming up against a brick wall.
When they finally found me I was much worse for the wear. My body, that is. I stayed pretty calm through the whole thing. Mostly I was disappointed I had to continue walking – I thought for sure my boring old walking days were over.
In the morgue I saw a few other bodies. No others like me though. It’s not surprising to me that I am the only ghost for miles. Anyway, the other bodies wouldn’t let me in either. Dead is dead.
And Darby, is Dead.
That’s what they said at my funeral. The minister asked my mother if she wanted to say a few words. She nodded, stood up and said, “Darby is dead.” Then she sat back down. A few minutes later they poured the dirt on. I was the only one left for that. My funeral was not a heavily attended event.
You hear about these kids who die in tragic accidents – like an enlarged heart, or a drunken swimming mishap, or getting smooshed while trying to hop on a moving train. Kids who get really sad and off themselves or drive drunk or are just in the wrong place at the wrong time…you hear about all these tragic kids…and I’m just not one of them.
No one from school came to my funeral. I didn’t have a friend or lab partner or parentally-enforced-play-date or secret-former-neighbor-turned hot-guy-who still talked to me when no one was around or I looked particularly morose. I didn’t have the renegade teacher or librarian who took a quiet interest in me. I had no siblings. I had no father. No extendo-family. No job. No pets. I just had me. And even I was bored of my own company.
So when the minister at my funeral turned to my mother, there was no one there but me and him to hear her pronouncement. No tears. This did not surprise me.
I went to one of those tragic teenage funerals a couple of years back. It was the one where the dead kids church was not quite big enough for all of the family and friends and neighbors and teammates and classmates and guys-they-partied-with and girls-they-did-it-with and guys-who-envied-them-and-hated-them and girls-who-wanted-them-and-hated-them piled into a giant borrowed former-electronic-store-turned-rocking-church to sob and cry and talk about how awful it was and listen to Fade to Black by the Rolling Stones. This was not my funeral.
Before I died, I never imagined it would be even more boring to be dead then it was to be alive.
So I wanted to find somewhere to hang out…to wait and see what was going to happen next. After my funeral I spent some time at the house with my Mom. I watched her sleep and eat. Then I watched her put all of my stuff into boxes for the Salvation Army. And a week after I died, I watched as her bereavement leave ended and she went back to work. I left the house behind her that day and haven’t been back to see her since.
I’ve kind of lost track of time. I went back to the cemetery half hoping, half dreading I’d have the opportunity to see someone like me. I needn’t have bothered with worrying. After visiting every graveyard I know at varying times of day, I am still the only dead person around. Here is the weird thing though – I can see everything that is alive.
Not much about the world has changed. A house is still a house. A car is still a car. Boulevards and signs and lamp posts and hydrants and schools and skyscrapers and garbage cans and flag poles and playgrounds all look exactly the same. But everything that is alive: plants, animals, people, bugs…are all glowing. From the inside. Some lights are brighter, blinding almost. Some are faint. Even at night, when the world is dark, trees pulse with life-light.
I didn’t notice it at all at first, or maybe it gets stronger the longer I’m dead.