Friday, October 30, 2009

"Where the Water Is," Linda Laforge

I sit here in the black of night beside the graves of those who came before me. Unfortunately, they left before me too, or I wouldn’t be here lamenting on days past. Both my brothers and my dad lay here beneath the earth.

I remember planning these funerals with my mother. The funeral directors – glorified salesmen – tried to sell us the most expensive caskets, with satin pillows, for comfort I suppose, and lead lining so the worms and bugs wouldn’t have a meal of our men.

I’d have to admit, I’m not the best of Catholics, but as I understand the premise, when we die, our souls are going elsewhere. We’re saved, providing we’ve been good enough to get through the pearly gates.

I had difficulty looking at my brother’s dead body. Cerebral Palsy jailed him within his body, unable to say “Hey, how are ya,” and unable to grow up to run, play, learn and unable to ever have a life of his own. I watched him suffer his whole life and I watched him find joy in chocolate birthday cake and family visits to his nursing home. I had to pray beside his dead body with my family and when I looked at it, I didn’t see him there. It wasn’t in the absence of breath or movement. He just wasn’t there.

David died a few years later. He had AIDS, so the funeral home insisted that he be cremated. That disease ravaged the body of a young, strong, vibrant man who died in the presence of my parents. When I got home, to my mother’s annoyance, I wouldn’t go downstairs to see him. I already knew. He wasn’t there. Seeing his broken carcass would do nothing more than make me sick to my stomach over what he had endured. A broken heart was enough.

Seven years later I watched my father deteriorate for a month in the hospital. This time I got to tell him how much I loved and admired him. I got to tell him I was sorry for the times I was a selfish, rotten daughter. I got to say goodbye before they pulled the plug. At that point, the machines were keeping him alive in a clinical sense, but I felt his presence too.

At his funeral I watched his casket from a distance. He wasn’t there. Christopher wasn’t there. David wasn’t there when they burned him to ashes. None of them are in the ground as the worms and the bugs make a meal of their bodies. Their souls are soaring off in some magnificent journey, while we’re here, left to try to make sense of this world as we bury them and try to let them go.

That’s why I come here. To sit by their headstones and talk to them. I know I can talk to them from anywhere. This black night I sit here and almost see their rotting corpses beneath me and their brilliant spirits in flight above. I’m in the middle, but what makes me so different? I’m alive and so are those ghosts of fancy. The worms and bugs below are alive, and don’t they have a right to a good meal?

Life, even unseen and imagined is around me as I seek a meager understanding of it. I think the only difference between my life and those of the spirits is water. From what I hear a human being is 75% or more water, not unlike the planet we live on. We need at least a few litres a day for good health and energy.

We use it to bathe in and to clean most of our things. We use water to cook with and to eat with. Water relaxes us. It calms us as we swim in it and even as we watch it reflect the blue sky. Oceans, seas and lakes provide a source of food to us, with all its critters swimming and wriggling around in it. We drink it and we pee it out almost as fast. It feels good as we drink it and even better as we relieve ourselves of it.

We like to talk of how we reinvent ourselves. Nothing reinvents itself with the fluidity of water as it’s poured into a glass or as it pours from a river into a lake or an ocean. Nothing is more immense or more attractive. Even the sky, almost as big, if it wasn’t the purveyor of rain that it is. Like God, it is everywhere and in everything. Only the desert knows different, and is likely the reason hell is often described as burning.

Water is the difference between us and them.


Angels are usually depicted with great wings and pleasant faces. Cherubs pointing darts at peoples, I suppose because love hurts. When a movie ghost has a drink, the liquid runs through their non-corporeal selves onto the furniture. These guys don’t live here the way we do. They don’t have thirsts to quench. They don’t need to take a shower. They don’t need water.
Do they need love? Do they have jobs to do up there in the heavens? They must; otherwise they’re living the lives of house cats and everybody knows cats have the brains the size of chicken eggs. Thinking of these brilliant beings soaring the heavens with messages to deliver and papers to file is the only way I can find for it to make any sense. They’re not like us, but maybe we could be a bit more like them.

I sit here by the graves of my boys in the dark of night, I take a swig of beer and I realize I should probably be drinking water. A tear comes to my eye. We even need water to cry.
Do spirits cry? I take another swig and remember stories of religious icons crying. A statue of the Virgin Mary crying blood and even a marble Jesus with true tears.

There’s my proof.

I shed another liberating tear, just because I miss my brothers and my dad. I shed a tear because the world is so full of uncertainty and contradiction.

When the spirits cry, it’s because of us. When they cry, they have to do it here, on earth, where the water is.


After 15 years in the marketing industry as a graphic designer, Linda Laforge now devotes herself to painting, writing, and teaching drawing classes for kids and adults at the Huronia Arts Academy in Barrie. Check out her website here:

Note: For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

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