The Viewing

I’ve heard that there are some who refuse to see a loved one after they have passed on. They want the image in their mind to remain that of the person while they were alive and not have it overridden by their death. It’s a concept I wish I had thought of early last summer. I wish I had stopped at the end of that street, turned my bike around, and continued pedaling home. Well, not home, just to my mother’s house.

No, on that day I did go home. For the first time in two years I was riding my bike to the only place that had ever been home for me. I don’t know what brought me there in the end, but I think it was denial. It was stumbling on the listing online and seeing these real estate websites describe it in such unfitting, foreign words. It was seeing the pictures of what it had become and disbelieving that any of it was really true.

Two years prior, when my Dad first made us leave this house, we took only a bag of clothes each. My siblings and I were promised that we would come back for the rest of our things. However, every weekend living at my stepmother’s house brought another excuse and another way of pushing it off. It was our Mom who told us in the end.

“I drove by, there’s a bunch of stuff and a dumpster in the driveway?”

We begged, but he wouldn’t let us go and see, he wouldn’t tell us what was going on. It “wasn’t our business.” It wasn’t long before the magic word was finally revealed: “Foreclosed.” By the time we knew, it was too late. By the time he finally quit the lies and the excuses, everything was gone. Sold or thrown away, we didn’t know. It didn’t matter anymore.

As I stood there staring at the corpse that was once my childhood home, sixteen years’ worth of possessions and memories came crashing down on me. The photos online were generous, they must have been old. On one side the grass had been ripped from the yard, and on the other, weeds and tree saplings had grown into an untamable jungle. The mouth of a front window gaped open in the expression of one who had been brutally betrayed just before death. Through it I could see inside the body of the house, stripped bare and entirely empty.

It is one thing to have to let go of a house and get used to a new one, but this, for me, was different. This home was a symbol. It was the anchor at the end of a rope that I had held onto for the past several years of sailing through otherwise impossible waters. It was the only proof of simpler, happier times. It was the only proof that once upon a time my life, my family, had been whole. Now here I was, having pulled up the rope only to find nothing at the end. This should have been my chance to say goodbye, to shut the door once and for all and move on. Unfortunately though, this door that had been shut for me and taken briskly away.

The weight of everything settled heavily on my shoulders. I could no longer hide from the daily storms that life brought me. I couldn’t fall back on memories and wish that somehow everything would go back to the way it was. This was the undeniable nail in the coffin telling me that those days were up and I could no longer turn to them for my happiness. It was a painful realization, having the door closed and gone. As I got on my bike and began to ride away, however, I also knew that this was my chance to seek out and open new doors. Sure, it still felt like that happiness had been taken from me, but now I had no choice but to go out and make my own.

I had seen the end that had been forced upon me, and it was time for me to finally make a new start.


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