The Smallest Coffins are the Heaviest

Coco Smallhorne Stack (age 14), Temple Carrig School, Greystones, Co Wicklow

Coco Smallhorne Stack

My brother Henry organised the funeral because he knew I wasn’t mentally able to plan a thing like that. He told me I could say a few words if I wanted to, but I don’t. I will just break down in tears. I don’t even want to have a funeral. I want to cremate her and keep her at home with Dylan and me. But Mother wouldn’t let me.

“She should go back to the earth where she came from Carol,” she said. “She’s my daughter,” I argued. “And she’s my granddaughter, she should be buried next to your father don’t you think?”

I wasn’t going to bother arguing with her because she always wins, always. I step out of the car to see a looming church building. I can see the priest standing at the door ready to greet me and give his condolences. I don’t feel welcome here though, seeing as we don’t come to church every Sunday or pray every night or even believe in God at all. Once again, I am just here because my mother wants me here.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” says the priest. He holds my hands in his. His hands are cold and damp. He bows his head to me and slowly opens the door. I look down as I walk in, trying to avoid anything that will trigger the tears. I feel a small warm hand grab mine tightly. “Mama, is Daddy coming today?” asks Dylan, looking up at me. I just look at him for a moment. Not saying anything, just looking. “Mama?” he repeats tugging on my hand. “Of course, he will be here soon I’d say,” I reply, snapping back into reality.

I don’t know though. I haven’t seen Dylan’s father since the fight. It’s been a good few months now. I got in touch to tell him what happened, but he hasn’t replied. Henry sent him the details of the funeral. I hope he shows up. Not for me, but for Dylan, he needs this. The church is a scary place really, filled with paintings of a dying man on a cross. It’s even worse when at the end of the long, intimidating corridor you see your little girl’s face surrounded by a golden frame, sitting next to a tiny coffin. I haven’t even made it to the end of the corridor yet. I’m taking baby steps. Just like Papa said: “You have to take baby steps in order to face your biggest fear.”

And this is my biggest fear. People are starting to arrive now. I stand at the door with Dylan, hugging every person that passes. They all start talking and telling stories to me as if they think I am listening. I just throw on my best fake smile and nod. I don’t want to listen because I will break and I need to keep it together, for Dylan. I am sitting in the front row next to Mama and Dylan. One after the other, friends and family get up and say their speeches. Once again, I’m not listening. I’m just rubbing Dylan’s back while repeating to myself, keep it together, keep it together, keep it together. Dylan is looking around the room anxiously, looking for his father. Of course he didn’t show up. He can’t handle strong emotions, so when things get too hectic, he leaves.

I still haven’t seen her. I don’t want to see her, not like this anyway. I want to remember her as her joyful happy self, not as a lifeless, rotting corpse. After what feels like forever, the ceremony is over. I got through it without shedding a single tear, but I think I’ve said ‘keep it together’ so many times it will forever be playing in the back of my head.

Everyone stands up and exits the church. I haven’t moved. I’m still sitting in my seat. I slowly get up and make my way towards the coffin. I know I told myself I didn’t want to see her like this, but this is the last time I will see her little face, so I have to. I close my eyes and place my hand on the edge of the coffin. Cold, yet warm. My palm is placed on the outer, cold, wooden lair. While my fingers are placed on the silky, warm, fabric lair. I slowly open my eyes and soon after they are full of tears. She is so pale, she is whiter than the dress she is wearing. This isn’t what my little girl should look like. She should be smiling and laughing or wearing one of her bright yellow dresses. They are her favourite. Were, her favourite. Dylan comes to comfort me. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have him.

On the drive home it’s raining. Of course it’s raining. On a day like this I feel like the world is as sad as I am. Behind the sounds of lashing rain pounding against the window, I hear a slight sobbing. I look in my mirror and see Dylan crying in the backseat. I want to say something like what’s wrong or don’t cry, but I know Dylan hasn’t cried all day and it’s only natural for him to shed a tear or two. “I really sorry Mama,” says Dylan wiping away the tears.

“It’s okay Dylan,” I reply. “You didn’t do anything.”

“I didn’t know I would stop her waking up,” he says. I don’t say anything for a moment. “What?”

“She was crying, crying, crying, she wouldn’t stop.”

I stare blankly out at the rain. “So, what did you do?” I stutter.

“I put a pillow over Rosie so she’d stop crying. I thought she just went to sleep I, I didn’t know.”

I freeze, I don’t say a word but in my head I hear a familiar phrase repeat itself. Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together.