I wake to sun rays gleaming through the curtains. My eyes wander the ceiling as reality shadows memories of the night’s dreams. My morning dose of serotonin hits once they land on my glasses on the bedside table.
My senses transport to The Jungle. Falcor grazes nearby with birds overhead but no sign of G-Ma. Strange…she’s usually up early waiting for me.
I take off my glasses and look to her bed. She lays quietly as usual. My attention draws to her Soulent cartridge. It’s at the same level as last night.
My feet collect under my body and step to her bedside. Her body seems more still than usual. Her lips, slightly blue. No breath leaves her nose. My fingers clumsily search her neck for a pulse.
My heart pounds. My knees tremble. My mind frantically searches for another explanation. Unable to accept reality, I collapse.
I don’t know how much time passes. My first coherent feeling is naivety. This is what death is like.
The next couple of days are a blur. I toss and turn in bed consumed by loneliness and fear. The thought of a future without G-Ma paralyses me in the present. My despair deepens until the realization of my selfish thoughts overwhelms me with guilt. I can’t even cry.
I thought my dad’s death would’ve prepared me for this. But I have no memory of it, or of him for that matter, only of the stories told to me when I was old enough to understand.
Funeral arrangements force me to act. Fortunately, without leaving my bed. Her cremation is complemented with a Metaverse ceremony.
A bright green meadow roles in abundance beyond the horizon. Oak trees scatter under a perfectly blue sky. G-Ma’s tombstone sits alone in the endless field. In front of it, her casket hovers over an open plot.
A small number of attendees join. Tourists, I assume. G-Ma outlived most of her acquaintances. They leave respectful comments but their reason for attending is unlikely so selfless. I think experiencing death helps them appreciate life.
At least that’s how I feel. I don’t think I fully understood the finality of death until now.
One attendee stands alone. His avatar is unmistakably familiar. His frame. His eyes. But more than his features, his posture. The way his arms fall by his side. I don’t know if I’ve actually seen him before.
He catches me inspecting him. A chill creeps into my bones as I quickly deflect his view.
The officiant’s avatar is standard but reverent. He greets the crowd with a sombre smile and proceeds with the eulogy. It beautifully weaves G-Ma’s life together, including parts I didn’t know about.
“…she left her home country with nothing after all of her personal belongings were confiscated by the authoritarian regime…”
“…she worked as hard as she could, sacrificing everything to give her family basic opportunities…”
And other parts that I knew deep down but hadn’t really appreciated.
“…after grieving her son’s death, she moved the family to New York to create a fresh start for her grandson…”
“…she eventually became ill and incapacitated but didn’t let that stop her from living her final years to the fullest, continuing to raise her grandson…”
“…she held on as long as she could to make sure he was ready for his life ahead…”
Tears roll down the faces of all the avatars but the sadness of the familiar man stands out. It seems real. I don’t shed a tear.
We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.Confucius