Professional wailers originated in places like Egypt, China, and India, and to this day it’s a respected profession embedded in the cultures of many, very, very old civilizations. In the beginning, the mourners were women. Because women cry, women wail, women are dramatic and scream at the sight of a spider. Men didn’t show emotions, men were soldiers, men were Kings, men were men.
These performers were also a tool for aristocrats, because, some people are too rich to feel in public. Perhaps they don’t feel in private either. But certainly not in public, it’s beneath them. Tears, to some, are a sign of humanity, which to some, is a sign of weakness, and poverty.
Today, this little performance gem is acted out by both men, and women. And for a price, they will cry you a river, scream, wail, and even throw themselves into a grave.
“Have you have lost the will to feel? Has the rage taken over the grief? Do you make a funny face when you cry, and don’t care to be seen in such a state? Well, for a price, you can get an actor to feel for you. No more ruined mascara, no more, puffy under eyes, there’s someone standing by, ready to tackle all your grieving needs, a professional”
I wanted to hire a mourner to throw themselves into the open grave at an up and coming funeral I had heard about. My friend Miranda’s mother had recently passed, and her funeral was to follow in the days ahead…
Miranda and I sat on the wood floor of her tiny apartment, drank wine, and while she sorted through boxes of her dead mother’s things, I dug her for stories. One after the other. I wanted all the juice, every drop, bitter, and sweet.
I studied family photographs, looking for breadcrumbs, while she fingered through bibs and bobs that held story after story. The story of a lonely woman that had left another woman behind, lonely.
I could see Miranda searching, as I was, for clues. In between the clippings, books, more photographs, and hand-written letters, there had to be an answer, and we had to figure it out.
It had taken years for her mother to die, and it was a brutal, messy struggle. Miranda had become the sole caretaker to the person that was supposed to take care of her. She was used to it though. It was part of who she was, because, in one way or another, she had been doing it her entire life. Miranda was dedicated to her mother, and her mother, was dedicated to being always, and forever, ungrateful.
Her mother grew up in a family that paid for their neglect and her services as a daughter, in presents, and forgiveness, no matter what the crime. She had all the things a child could want growing up and nothing that she needed. Hand holding, giggles, naps with mommy, and eye contact. These were all stories in holiday commercials, and, no matter how many letters she wrote to Santa, these things were never going to be under her tree.
She was abandoned, left emotionally empty handed, and surrendered to the hand she was dealt. She had learnt the art of counting cards, instead of how to play the game. And hand, after hand, she lost.
She’d married rich, cheated often, and drained each man dry. She’d devoured their love, their money, their will to fight, and left each one in the hands of a headstone. Perhaps exhausted, they had chosen to die. An easy decision when the alternative was to live out life with such a wretched woman. Or, perhaps, they themselves were wretched, and loving her was punishment.
We all choose our roads home, and the things we see along the way, at least that’s what I believe. Good, bad, or whatever we choose to call it. We choose everything.
It’s hard to recognize love though, when you have nothing to relate it too. It’s also very hard to be happy, if you choose to be happy, being sad.
Over her life, Miranda had watched her mother diligently file through a turnstile of people. Family, husbands, lovers, and friends. Coming, going, staying, but inevitably finding a way to leave her behind. They had to, the woman was an emotional parasite. But in the end, it was her that was being eaten alive. Her insides choosing to turn against her. Feeding on itself, in search of a way out.
She draped like a deflated, once over inflated balloon. Like the leftover dregs in the bag of an otherwise empty, boxed wine. Her skin, wrinkled, chafed, and see through in parts. Her body had become a wasted husk, her muscles and organs also leaving her in disgust. All that was left was a skin sack with some desperate, orphaned bones, masquerading as a spine.
Her body hung, as a fathers suit jacket on a child playing grown up does, loose. She wore a human pelt two sizes too big. She was old, angry, dying, and truly alone. But she had always been alone. She had always made it so.
Her loneliness and bank account had joined forces, together, taking up collecting. I imagine these collections were to keep her voices company. The walls of her huge house were like a child’s upturned toybox. A spoiled, brat of a child. Thousands of ceramic puppies, babies, floral arrangements, and figurines. Snow Globes from all around the world and miniature catalogue keepsakes. Hand painted eyes were everywhere, those of newborns, and kittens, alongside the many faces of our lord and savior, Jesus.
I stared at the photographs, studying the insanity, shelf by shelf. Layer by layer…
The photos, like the rooms and their stories, were muddy. They had lost their purpose beneath a thick film of stuff. Every inch of every wall taken over by row upon row of small treasures. Tiny things of no use, but gold, and silver, and precious, precious, precious.
There were hanging plants and dusty faces in picture frames filling gaps. Snapshots of all the people she did her best to push away. A list that included everyone. Everyone except Miranda.
Her mother was vicious, cheap, and spent her entire adult life feeling cheated. She had herself convinced the world had cut her, and only her, a raw deal. She used everyone around her as a pin cushion. Prodding and poking, and declaring victory in their finally leaving. This being proof that she was right all along. And that they were just like everybody else. Useless.
She also took pleasure in watching Miranda quietly beg for love. Something she had done as a child, with her own mother.
What is love to the unloved?
Miranda’s mother was a mother that didn’t care much for motherhood, for children, or for being anything other than miserable. Her misery had turned to cancer, and for the last eight years of her adult life, after everyone else had fled, Miranda lived with, cared for, and parented.
She changed sheets, washed underneath her mother’s sagging breasts, between the folds of her old, gray vagina, and even brushed her teeth. She washed her hair, her clothes, cleaned up her vomit, and carefully sorted her pills. She had changed her diapers, wiped her ass and fed her bowls of liquid food, every day, every day, every, single, day. For years.
The decay of cancer destroys everything, so slowly, so quietly and with a vengeance. Even those bound to the sidelines take shrapnel. It permeates into everything, and destroys everyone… Like a gas. A slow, deadly, painful gas.
Miranda’s mother was an emotional rapist. Each horrible story amounting to Miranda being a starving dog, chained to a ground stake, only one link away from food. She told me story after story of how her mother would berate her, even as a child, before she got really sick. She was prideful, hateful, hurtful, and spiteful. Each stab like a needle, sewing together the fabric of Miranda’s self-loathing, and a life of desperate, failed attempts, at making her mother happy.
It wasn’t just what her mother said that was so disturbing to me. It was a creepy combination of what she said, and where she felt inspired to be so hateful. Like in her bathwater, naked, wilting, and wet like a dog. She’d punished everyone, but especially those that saw her naked, both physically, and emotionally. And at bath time, that was Miranda.
In between the soap bubbles, she served retribution. And as her daughters hands washed her naked skin, her mother whispered poison.
“You are going to die alone, and you’ll deserve it, because poetry is for the poor, and for those that can’t read.”
Miranda is a poet. And I think her mother hated poetry, not only because Miranda wrote it, but because she understood it. Imagine feeling cheated by poetry?
I tried for hours to convince Miranda that a professional wailer was the first step towards emotional freedom, and recovery. She needed someone to do for her, what she could not do for herself. Like Alcoholics need meetings and The Big Book. Miranda needed someone to scream their tits off and throw themselves into her mothers’ open grave. It would make her feel good, it would make me happy, and it would be hilarious.
“It’ll lighten the mood. And I can take video from across the lawn, a few headstones over”
I kept saying things like this because it made her laugh, and I wanted her to laugh. But I was also very serious.
“We should also think about shooting slow motion. I want an open grave fall”
She thought this was very funny also. And obviously, it was. But again, I was, very serious.
The mourner I had found had menu options, a la carte, and, package deals. I wanted a package deal. A grief meal if you will, not just a taste. I didn’t want Miranda to go hungry anymore. She needed to eat, and I wanted to feed her. I wanted to feed her a way to bleed I guess, emotionally bleed.
The first three choices included fairly straightforward, if not civilized options. Quiet sobbing, crying, and loud crying. Loud crying being the biggest price jump, I’m guessing because of the volume increase, and it being performed while rolling around on the ground. I honestly wasn’t very impressed. I’m sure these options are fine for some people, but not for Miranda. Miranda should have the best. I mean, how many times does your mother die? There is no re-do here. It’s a one-shot deal. I was impressed however to see that all prices did include tax, and, real tears.
My suggestion was we spend the two hundred and fifty dollars, and get the most expensive package available. The premium, deluxe package. As advertised, this bad boy included the following:
Quiet sobbing, crying, moaning, wailing, and loud wailing. Loud wailing had a deluxe add on that included chest pounding, premium, deluxe chest pounding. This was not available with any of the non-premium, cheaper menu options. But wait, there’s more. It also included speaking in tongues, one gospel song, and rolling around on the ground.
The finale was a choice between the Wailer then throwing themselves onto the casket, or, into the open grave. And, for an extra fifty bucks, he would bring flowers. The package was perfect. Inclusive, and it felt personal.
I wanted, and needed the open grave, it’s what sold me. If it were an a la carte option I may have chosen just that. To be specific though, I wanted the after the body has been lowered into the hole, "open grave".
The performance should begin during the bodies lowering, and build. This feels like the right time, because in my mind, the lowering takes a while, and this gives the Wailer time to get through the first two acts of his performance.
When the guests start throwing fistfuls of dirt and flowers into the hole. After the rope is pulled away and the casket is safe and sound. That would be his cue to jump in. He should, if all goes as planned, be in the third act and moving towards the finale by then, if he’s worth his salt.
There was more comedy value in the wailer disappearing into an open grave, than there ever could be with him falling over a casket. Hearing the wailing pouring out from the hole, seeing horrified onlookers peering over, that was most definitely the way to go. Two hundred and fifty dollars, well spent. An extra fifty if you wanted flowers, which of course, we would.
Miranda and I had a good laugh. She inevitably declined my offer, gracefully, although I did get her to agree that it would have been amazing. I will put a pin in the professional wailer, for now. Save him for a future birthday party, or a baby shower, or something like that…
Surrounded by yesterday’s and promises lost, Miranda and I raised our glasses, in a toast. I winked at her beautiful, sweet smile, and said…
“Here’s to the dead.”