Those Damn Peach Roses
The room was silent with even the slightest whisper echoing throughout. We’d been sitting in my great grandmother’s living room for about 5 hours, but it seemed like an eternity. A hopeful eternity where my mother and aunt would walk in the house, lightly close the door with ease, and tell my cousin and I that my grandma was alive and feeling much better. They could’ve just said she was alive and that would have been all right. I began pacing the floor until I realized that if I continued like this I’d be dizzy. Sitting in the soft pink chair that remains in the same spot today, I waited. I face that chair every time I enter my great grandmother’s house and still haven’t been able to conquer it. So much life has happened in and around that house yet, everything inside remains untouched, just like that pink chair. Time was passing so slowly. Yet, looking back, I realized that I’d rather time pass slowly and allow me a chance to set myself up for defeat rather than time passing fast and surrendering to her death ultimately. I would be defeated regardless. I was tired. Tired of waiting. Tired of thinking. Tired of wishing. Tired of hoping. Tired of dreaming for the impossible. I dreamt that the cancer would magically vanish or that God would at least grant her a couple more days on earth. Yet, I realized that death is ruthless and comes at a time when you dream and hope the most. I wished I found a penny on the ground that day, for good luck. I heard car doors slamming outside and felt my heart beat violently in my chest, causing my body to palpitate. My heartbeats echoed throughout the empty room, until the only sound I heard were the keys jingling outside and the doorknob slowly turning. They entered the room and I knew even before they released a breath. “She died” and that was it- at that moment I felt my heart leave my body.
The funeral had to have been worse then the couple of nights before when I first found out. During those couple of days I lived in denial. “She’s dead but she’s not really dead,” I would say and actually began to believe it. Even on the way to the funeral home I was in denial. I thought it would be just like seeing a dead body on television, or maybe like seeing my uncle, who died a couple of years previously. Or, maybe I thought that it was all a big joke and she would hop up and say “Surprise!” The only surprise that day was that that never happened. I put on my ‘strong’ face, the face my family knows and teaches so well, and walked into the room that would haunt my dreams for the next 5 years. I avoided the casket even though up to that point, her death hadn’t fully hit me. She couldn’t be dead, I still had to go through high school, and college, get married, and have kids. No, not yet, just wait a couple of years. I remember telling her that Nicorette would do her good, but I guess nicotine is stronger then I thought. Just as I began to look up at the open casket, my mom told me to accompany her to the bathroom. I never knew why she requested this but I imagine the smell of death was flirting with her insides as well. It was a slow, careful walk to the bathroom, as we soaked in the ‘funeral home’ music, and smell of those dreaded peach roses. Those damn peach roses! I can still smell them! We stayed in the bathroom for a long time but even I knew that we would have to leave and face reality soon. Reality hit when I walked past the casket, as I had done so many other times. I broke down on the inside and never fully let it out. Still never fully let it out. All around her were those peach roses. Those dreaded damned peach roses!
After the service, we spoke with the family and her close friends. “You look so much like her”, they would say. I usually responded with a “thank you” but really just wanted to tell them to shut up and leave me alone. No, that wouldn’t be polite. Her friends were very welcoming and I received plenty of hugs. They were showered with White Diamonds and other cologne but all I could smell were those peach roses. Those terrible peach roses- her favorite flower.
I was told in class five years and a couple months later to write a personal narrative on a significant event in my life. “I’ll probably write about the time I got kicked out of camp or maybe about the time I fell in love”, I told my friends, contemplating the complexity of those topics. In the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to write about something I’d never confronted before. There was only one thing- those damn peach roses. I felt terrible that my most significant and memorable event in life is something as depressing as death, but then again I don’t have the luxury of deciding what my most significant event in life will be. From that day, from sitting in the living room to smelling the peach roses, I was changed forever. I didn’t know it then, and chose not to acknowledge it until now. Since then, my heart ‘grew’ back and I’ve loved again, not knowing that I’d be able to do that either. I learned how to face reality, or at least attempt to, because I could live in denial only for so long. The hardest lesson was learning to turn to myself because she is no longer here, and discovering my own backbone. Because of those damned peach roses, I learned that it is better to love and to have lost then to never love at all.