Zia Hassan

This Is How Death Works

+++ title = “04” date = 2019 +++

In my family’s culture, the body is wrapped in a sheet and placed inside of a plain coffin. After a funeral ceremony, the body is transported in the coffin to the cemetery, but only by the men. We use a car to transport if the cemetery is far away from the funeral, but that’s it.

When we’re carrying the body, the men huddle together and a core group hold up the coffin, which is heavy. We take turns, passing the coffin to new hands, while others take a break and walk alongside. Then those original carriers take their duties back as the current group gets tired.

I used to think of life and death as two sides of the same coin but maybe life is a bridge between two types of non-existence.

When carrying the body becomes too much to bear, we pass on the duties to someone else. And life is like that too. A few months before my son was born, my aunt passed away somewhat quickly.

Before my wife and I boarded a plane to get to her funeral, I addressed my son through the walls of the womb: This is how it goes, Dez. Someone new comes along and someone else has to exit. There’s not enough space in the room and not enough room in space.

There may not be enough space for all the physical bodies, not as much space as we’d like. But on the hard drives that we’ve been carrying around since birth that sit in a stone case on top of our necks, there is somewhere between 10 and 100 terrabytes of storage space.

We keep carrying those we’ve lost physically in our hard drive heads. We turn to books and writing when those hard drives start to fail. And like the men who carry bodies to burial, we move on, we eat lunch, we read, we write, and in doing so, we share the burden of being alive with all that ever were.