When fear takes over, the beatings doesn’t matter.
Today was Sunday, I was told to get dressed for church. I was nearly 8 years old. My mummy laid out my clothes, as usual I didn’t want to wear them, but choice was not an option in my life. I knew I looked old fashion especially as I could tell when the children made fun of me. This Sunday would be the same as any other Sunday. I did like going to Sunday school though because I liked the bible stories, and because I love reading anyway I would immerse myself in the scripture. Since growing up.
Anyway as I was saying I was ready as usual, had breakfast in silence, most of my mummy’s communication with me were demands. It was do this or do that. It certainly wasn’t the friendly chatter I saw with other families. Therefore conversation was minimal, we lived in silence apart from her gospel music playing continuously in the house.
We arrived at church that day, we were late so most people were already there. For some reason I noticed that church was different, everyone was wearing black. The songs were depressing and some people were crying. I noticed there was a large box in the middle of the church, lots of flowers. I was petrified to say the least because there was someone inside, but there was no movement.
I was also very confused. I was a naive eight years old, I had never been to a funeral procession. I had never seen a dead person. I wanted to leave the church as fear gripped me. I remember being sweaty and I felt wobbly. I now know this was what we call anxiety. I guess I could say this was when my Friend anxiety met me. From that moment I believe anxiety became the unwanted Friend, who refused to leave for many years and resurfacing during the worse periods of my life, but we will get to that later.
Well, the church erupted in singing and praises, I recall, amazing grace was one of the songs that played. Then the songs and praises stopped and the pastor said people could view the body. The church members formed a single file. The church hall had two sections with people on the left and people on the right with a aisle down the middle. My mummy and I was sitting on the left, I was at the end chair.
I felt my mummy push me in my back and told me to go. “Oh my what did she mean?” “Go where”. My thoughts were racing and as I write these lines my heart is feeling lighter, I can feel my old friend anxiety coming back to my aid. But I’ve learnt over the years to suppress her. Stubborn cow my Friend is, as I breathe lightly and ignore her demands, and continue my writing, she goes off in a huff.
As I was saying, me and mummy walked to the front of the church in a single file with me in front of her. As we got nearer the coffin I wanted to vomit I recall shaking like a leaf as fear engulfed me. Then she poked me in my back and said “TOUCH HIM” “What, me touch the dead man” no way I just couldn’t. I remember battling with my conscious.
I was disobeying my mummy, I’m going to get beaten. I was jolted back to reality with my mummy pulling my hand to touch the body. I put my hand inside the coffin with my eyes closed but as it got nearer I pulled it away. I felt my hand getting sweaty and I was trembling. I tried to control my bladder as fear took control. I couldn’t see his face properly but remember I had to go on tiptoes. I was a small skinny eight year old. She then said again, ” TOUCH HIM, HES YOUR FATHER”. mad woman!. “How can he be my father” but I do recall being puzzled; did that mean to say, the man I left in Jamaica was not my father? A lump filled my throat. I remember thinking my father in Jamaica was very tall. Although I couldn’t see the whole body, I remember thinking he couldn’t fit in that. I tiptoed to see his face. He was fat “this cannot be my father”, I thought.
In any case, I still refused, not out of disobedience but of fear.
My mummy gave me a look again, to say you had better do as you are told. I tried again but as my hand got nearer to the body I took it away. I remember thinking ” I hate you” and I didn’t care how much beaten I received that day. I watched as many church members filed past the body. We then made our way back to our seats,
I was not going to touch a dead man. Yeeeeuwh.
The church service ended for everyone and the funeral procession continued to the cemetery. Although I did not touch the dead man, whom in the end was the pastor of the church and NOT my father. The fear of death and of the dead continued throughout my teenage and most part of my adult life. I would often wake up in cold sweat for a great part of my life, mainly because I was terrified of dying. This fear built up into a crescendo(a progressive increase in intensity) which I will touch on later, as you follow me through my testimony. Oh yes my dear friend anxiety was here to stay.
I was not beaten or scolded when I went home that day, in fact I cannot recall if the incident was mentioned again.