“We are gathered here today to mourn the tragic passing of our beloved Rose Mathews...” I stopped paying attention to the minister after that. Although the last funeral I had gone to was my biological mother's when I was four, I still had the general idea of what he was going to say. I didn't need to be reminded of how gorgeous my baby sister was, I remembered just fine. It had only been three days since she had died. Three days since I saw her lying in the hospital bed, looking so peaceful, her skin as white as the sheets. That image has been haunting my dreams since. Even now, as I stare at her casket, I can see her tiny body lying there, alone. Why couldn't I have saved her? Why did she have to be the one that death took? Mum grabbed onto my hand as dad held onto her tightly. It was time for everyone to pay their respects and place a flower on the casket before they lowered it into the ground. I watched as one by one, our friends and family went up to the casket and placed roses on the top. I watched numbly as my dad, uncle and cousins lowered my sister into her grave. Right then, I wanted to join her. I wanted to run over and lay myself in the casket with her, just so that she wouldn't be alone. It wasn't a rational thought or desire, everyone dies alone, but I didn't care. Right then, I just didn't want her to be alone.
People began to leave for the wake, coming up to us first and offering their condolences. Not really wanting to participate in this, I decided to look around the cemetery. A few meters away, I saw a gathering of people similar to our own. Like my parents and I were before, there was a woman and a boy about my age, from what I could tell, standing just apart from the rest. The immediate family of the deceased. As I was wondering who they might have lost, the boy looked up at me. Not quite sure of he knew I was looking, I decided to slowly look away. Even though I couldn't see him, I could sense that he was still looking in this direction. Maybe he was wondering who we had lost as well.
“Time to go honey,” Dad said, bringing my attention back to our party. I nodded and began to follow him, casting one more look at Rose's fresh grave. Mum had put a bouquet of white and pink roses on top of the newly turned dirt. She said that the soft pastel colours were more fitting to our Rose that the traditional deep red. Mum squeezed my hand and we left. The boy had stopped looking at us, realising that we were leaving. I looked at him one more time, and then proceeded to forget him, knowing that it was very likely I would never see him again.
The wake was hard, but bearable. I spent most of it hiding in the media room with my best friend Tess, watching JAG on the large flat screen. Tess had brought the first couple of season over, knowing that it would at least keep me a little bit distracted from the real reason everyone was here. For a little while, I was able to just sit there and laugh a little with my best friend and pretend like nothing was wrong. Then someone would come in and see me, giving me a sad sympathetic look as they apologised for intruding and left. Then I would remember and it would take me a while before the episodes could pull me back under their spell and away from reality. After the tenth person came in, Tess walked over to the door and locked it so that no one else could come in again. It made it easier to forget. I was able to sit there and watch Harm and Mac argue with each other, with Tess next to me chanting for them to kiss, even though she knew they wouldn’t. She did this with every non-couple in every show we watched. A knock on the door interrupted the introduction of Mick to the team. Despite my instinct to ignore it and stay curled up on the couch, in my little world of pretend, I went over and unlocked the door. On the other side was my mum, her eyes red from all the crying she had done today. She gave me a small, sad smile.
“Hey baby, time to come out. We’re about to start the speeches.” I wanted to say no, that I didn’t want to come out and be reminded of Rose’s death, but I knew I couldn’t. Mum and dad both needed me there, needed me to give a speech. So I signalled Tess that we were leaving and followed mum into the main family area. There, I listened to people tell stories about Rose until it was my turn and everyone was looking at me.
“Rose was my baby sister,” I began. “When I first saw her in my mum’s arms asleep, I thought she was the most gorgeous thing in the universe. Then she woke up and began screaming.” A few people laughed at this. “I guess you could say that it served as a warning for how loud she was going to be. Even before she could talk, Rose communicated in the strangest noises, but they still managed to get her intended message across loud and clear. She was also really smart. Talking at eight months old and walking by the age of one. It was never a quiet moment when she was around. I miss her with all my heart and will do so every day.” When I was finished, dad put his arm around my shoulder.
“Thanks honey, you did good, ” He said as he kissed my temple.
“I wish she was still here,” I whispered so that only he could hear me. He just squeezed me harder and said nothing. He didn’t have to. We both knew that everyone in the room was wishing the same thing. Rose had always been a force of nature and now that she was gone, it seemed as if everyone’s life became unhinged and off balanced. Well, I knew this is what happened to my parents’ and my life anyway. Rose, I thought Please come back. Please run through the door and yell ‘Hi-hi!’. Please? No matter how hard I wished, I knew it wouldn’t come true. No one could come back from the dead. No matter how much you want them to. Not even if they were you one year old sister who should’ve had her entire life in front of her. Why didn’t you take me instead of her death, why?