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By Kaylie-Ann Flannigan

Our family is already so ridden with holes. I watch them widen with every sad meeting, including yours. So many reunions at funeral homes always brining up so much from the past –lacking hope for our future. Families everywhere probably know this reality. We say pretty sentences with empty meanings. Lots of “Oh, I haven’t seen you in so long, how are you?” or “We really need to get together more.” Or “So great to see you, but unfortunate circumstances.”

What I’ve already come to learn is that no one really means any of it. We’re all just forced under the blanket of family to come together for a common mourning. It’s even more awkward when you aren’t much of a funeral crier and the whole family just thinks you’re a cold-hearted bitch who really doesn’t have any feelings.

We are always moving. It’s just up to us to decide what direction were headed in, until we’re not. Eventually we all cease movement. Generally, we don’t get to decide when, but sometimes we do. You did. Today is August 16. Today Aretha Franklin died. Today I learned that you went a little ahead of her. I wonder if you got to meet her or is she has a special VIP service whisking her to the front of the line at heavens gates. I wondered if natural cause victims and suicide victims went into different lines. If suicide victims were allowed in heaven. If heaven was even real. I wondered a lot of things until I didn’t.

My mother called me at 5:40 on the dot this morning. When I saw my caller ID my stomach dropped. I didn’t cry: I just felt a lot of should’ve would’ve could’ve-s. There was a lot I could’ve would’ve should’ve done until there wasn’t. I wish I saw you last time I was home like we’d planned. As we all know, things don’t always go according to plan.

We haven’t spoken in a while, and now we never will again. I feel like the last time I saw you was when Bumpa died and even then, we barely spoke. We only joked about when we were kids and you used to harass me on the big school bus. We lived on the same route and you used to shout “cousin” loudly my way both in line for the bus and on the bus itself. I never knew if it was meant to annoy me or if you were proud we were related by blood: perhaps a bit of both.

This evening I called and asked if mom had heard anything about your service. She said that some of our family had only gotten back home an hour prior to my call. That they were dealing with trying to get the house cleaned. It got me thinking – who cleans up that mess? Is it a police referral? Is there a special cleaning service for brutal murders or suicide victims? Or is it just a concerned family friend with a strong stomach and good dissociation skills? I asked my mother this. She too, was stumped. I doubt that thought ever crossed your mind.

Some holes can’t be patched. It’s an old cliché but it became apparent most recently when I saw the makeup on your face trying its best to fix you; to keep the illusion that you were still a whole person. Breathing. Alive. They tried so very hard to make you whole again, but they couldn’t. This became obvious when we all could see the bullet hole and some blood pooled in your right ear.

You can’t always turn sadness into beauty. No matter how hard you try.

Kaylie-Ann Flannigan considers herself a professional dabbler and she exercises curiosity in a multitude of mediums. A sociologist at heart, she enjoys collecting stories and writing about folks in our vast and magnificent world. Her current project centers around people and planes. Kaylie is a Vermont native living in New York City, where she works full time as a flight attendant and has way too many roommates.

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