I save everything. In my closets, boxes and files you can find baby clothes my grandmother wore, letters I got from my dad when I was in preschool, and string I got for Christmas twenty years ago as a joke gift.
Most people don’t. It’s rare to find someone that has even one photo album, one scrapbook, or anything that has remained in the family for generations. So when I meet someone who has held onto a journal, a shoebox full of newspaper articles, or old stuffed animals, I’m interested.
Someone was saying perhaps I should turn this blog into more of ALL that is Corilou, rather than just focusing on funerals. I do occasionally have other things to write about, but funerals are the one thing about which there will never be too much to say. I am a woman of very few words, until you ask what I did at work today or how exactly a body is cremated.
But recently, when a news article about a violent death caught my eye, I found myself working out a piece in my head and then my thoughts drifted to a conversation I had with a former partner, with whom I also worked in the funeral home while we were both in school.
He had a shoebox full of childhood items he had saved – baseball cards; school awards; a few photos. And one bloody Band-Aid that he had kept for fifteen years. He told me it was a memento from the last day he saw his father alive.
Later I learned he had witnessed his father’s death, when he was ten years old.
He had grown up with his mother and stepfather, who was also his uncle. He rarely saw his father due to his father’s heroin addiction. But at the age of ten, when the uncle had moved out and married someone else, he had something to tell his mother, and then it was decided he should tell his father.
His father responded by beating his face so severely he was cut open in several places. He went home and tried to bandage his face and his mother found him, bleeding profusely and sticking Band-Aids on himself. She rushed him to the emergency room.
While he was there, he saw his father brought in on an ambulance. He had overdosed on heroin. Brian and his mother were allowed to follow the team of medics as they worked over him, but both of them saw him take his last breath. He died knowing the truth. He died because he could not handle the truth and how he had reacted to his own son crying for help.
The uncle’s new wife eventually walked in on him raping her child, and he went to prison. Brian and his sister testified in court and their testimonies were thrown out. Brian told me constantly he was waiting for the day his uncle got out of prison so he could kill him. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had already looked him up and saw that he had served less than a year and had been out for over a decade, and had also remarried.
Brian became an obese child because he was plied with sweets to keep quiet. It’s hard not to see a fat kid and wonder if that is what’s happening.
So Brian held onto that Band-Aid, even though it didn’t represent anything good. It represented a betrayal even worse than that of his uncle. It represented one of the worst days of his life, a day where he sought protection and healing and it was not given. But it was also a reminder of the last day he spent with someone important to him. I’d probably save it as well.