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My Life Among the Dead

Death leads to life leads to death. This is a fundamental principle in nature. One must kill a plant or animal in order to eat in order to live. Dead plants and animals fertilize the soil so that new life may grow. This is elementary, as is the idea that those of us who are alive live because of the dead. The dead have gone and made room for us. We are all products of our ancestors, those whose lives went into creating us, those who have gone before us and long since departed.

Yet death is frightening. Death horrifies. Death is often considered "senseless" or "unnecessary." In this society, to kill a person who killed is justice, the ultimate retribution. Cemetaries are considered "creepy." While I grew up a Christian, I am astonished by the ideas that many display towards death. If they die, they go to Heaven, right? The Ultimate Good Place? I fail to see why they would dread it or talk about it as though it is ultimately bad. I also fail to see why I was considered morbid for actually believing my relatives when I was seven and they comforted me by saying that Jesus had brought my Daddy to a better place. Equally ludicrous to me is the idea of courting or idolizing death through vampirism, suicide, etcetera. So easy for me to forget the fucked-up attitudes I once held.

Once upon a time, I simultaneously feared and courted death. Life was very difficult for me. Looking back, I can say, "it wasn't all that bad." I was able-bodied and able-minded, I was fed and sheltered, I had a few friends, and some adults cared for me. As an adult, I can see that those qualities alone made me better off by far than most of the world. But I was an outcast. I was fat, with bad skin. Mommy didn't understand me (said with a whine and a sneer), often insulted me, and occasionally hit me--one of my few lasting scars is from her hitting my arm so hard with a broomstick, when I was thirteen, that I could see tendon. My clothes, words, ideas, everything were all wrong. Most girls hated me. I was dyscalculiate (math-dyslexic) and "gifted", attracted to members of both genders, and too weird even for the weird kids. So I attempted suicide when I was thirteen. I fell into self destructive habits and bouts of depression. Like Drew Carey in his Dirty Jokes and Beer, I say this only to provide background as to what made me the person I am, not to draw sympathy or to be known for the rest of my life as a child of abuse. This child grew up.

I remember vividly the visions and voices. Foreign-accented voices told me "you need to grow need to need to get old...we won't take you yet." The voices, as it turned out, belonged to my ancestors and the Ghedes. I'd loved my father very much and was his princess--he was a lousy provider, but a great parent as far as the emotional stuff went, the flip side to my mother. Whenever I entertained a suicidal thought, I received dreams and visions of him and my other dead ancestors turning their backs on me in the afterworld. It was thoughts of hell and an eternity without my loved ones that finally scared me out of suicide.

Jayelle Lukash