"Crossing Over"

By: A. Harrison

We walked through the maze of empty halls, following the hideous green tiled floor toward the echoes of far away voices. Each unsynchronized step pulled us toward the impending event we were all dreading. An eternity passed. Finally, we happened upon our destination. Just before us, a sea of black. There were no faces, only the soft flow of hair to give hints of the people within. For a moment, we paused. Inhaled. In the air hung a sadness not even a cherub could deny. At one, we were infected. Tears welled into the eyes of each group member as we silently looked to one another. To out left, images of our beloved friend. Single file, we submerged ourselves into the crowd, becoming just another backside in the mass of people. Just before me, Joshua in his Sunday best, his curly head bowed into his chest, each of his steps disrupted by the flow of his crutches against the carpet. Nobody knew what to expect as we approached the open casket.

Just days prior, our friend Josh was on his way to school with his younger brother Jake, when a semi carry rocks ran a red light, slamming into the side of Josh's car. It was a miracle that Jake had even survived the crash. To our misfortune, the celebration of life went hand-in-hand with that of death. In our heads, melodies of comfort played in attempt to keep emotions at bay. These soft lullabies worked even as we saw his lifeless body. As if sleeping, Josh lay upon the satin, his much too pale body frozen in time. In each hand, he held his life – drum sticks. His visage was expressionless; his brunette hair spiked to perfection even in death. The procession advanced, sweeping us with it. As we walked away, it was then that it hit me. Never again would I see the happiness in his mahogany eyes. Something to the same effect mush have occurred to Joshua, for in that moment, he turned and collapsed into me. Both of us stood at the front of the crowded room in a tearful embrace.

"It's going to be all right." I whispered, a hand sliding along his boney spine. His response was a soft sob and a nod before he turned and moved toward our seats.

Settling into our spots, there were soft murmurs around us until a man came up onto the stage. It wasn't long before he delved into Josh's avid Christian faith. At times, his speech brought us all to tears, our fingertips searching the soggy Kleenex for any dry area of tissue to help us wipe our tears. The center of the man's presentation was God. It was apparent this was Josh's pastor. There was a point in his sermon where he asked all non-believers to leave to enable him to have "one-on-one time" with the believers. Despite my lack of belief in God, I decided to sit through the entire procession, believer or otherwise. I owed that much to Josh.

Behind the man on the stage, Josh's band played their soft rock music. Any and all of our self-made melodies now twined with the provided soundtrack, the pastor's voice drawing us in. He told us that Josh had the strongest relationship with God that he had ever witnessed. He told us that Josh could have been the Son of God himself. Though his words intrigued me, I didn't think much of his statement until he invited all the members of the church to the front. A majority of the congregation rose to their feet, shuffling to the base of the stage where Josh lay in rest. Their pastor backed away, and the band began to play louder. Missing from their set – a drummer. In his place, a soundtrack. Emotions rose again as the crowd began jumping and screaming, as in a concert. Here, in its most raw form, was their method of worship. For a moment, I felt as if I were sociologist, examining a small society. A part of me wanted to get up and join them, to pretend as if my friend had not died, that he was really there with us, playing his heart out on stage. Instead, I sat in my seat, fumbling with my tissue, silent tears streaming steadily down my cheeks. My mind began to wander, traveling through the realm of memories.

"Come back to us, Josh, " cooed the pastor.

The music stopped. Their leader began speaking to the crowd once more. Lifting my gaze to those still on their feet, my eyes fell upon the countless sets out hands outstretched toward Josh's casket. Some of the hands were even touching his cold body.

"Get up, Josh. Rejoin us on Earth." Again the pastor spoke, his gaze locked upon Josh.

Confusion settled in as I looked to Joshua, the same look of bafflement etched across his features. The calm had broken. Around us, cries of agony from all around. Although some people sat in silence, many others were on their feet, shouting at Josh to wake up, to rise from the dead. These people actually thought he was the Son of God. The entire notion was ludicrous to me, and yet from all angles came their pleas for him to rise. Looking around, discomfort settled into my every being, forcing me to squirm in my seat, the Kleenex now a wad of soggy confetti in my hand.

"Josh!" From behind me, came the agonizing screams ripping from a faceless woman.

Each mention of his name more heart wrenching than before. It ripped right into the depths of my soul, picking at my emotional and physical being. The agony was too much. I broke down. How could these people honestly believe they could raise him from the dead just because they wanted him back? I wanted him back. We all did. The rest of us knew this wasn't possible. For those who thought mortality could be reversed, they continued to plead for Josh to just wake up, to start breathing as if nothing had occurred. Eventually, their leader stepped forth, his voice bringing a wave of relief. Finally, they would cease their cries that were very much in vain. For the rest of the service, I sat dumbfounded and in my own world. Safe. The close of the funeral couldn't have been more welcomed.

Gathering to our feet, we rose to say our final goodbyes. As we left the sanctuary, the cries of many picked up where they left off, begging Josh to return for eternity.

Following the funeral we waited to accompany the family to the cemetery. Instead, the church convinced the family to wait a few days. Give Josh a few days. Maybe he would rise without an audience. They wanted to give him three days. Just like Jesus.

That day, though one of the most difficult, taught me something. Everyone is different. Simple lesson. But in moments proceeding Josh's funeral, that statement could have never rang more true. Each person believes in something different. There's no way to avoid that. We all grieve, or respond to situations in our own way. I just hope their feelings weren't too hurt when Josh decided to continue his eternal slumber.