It was my first funeral I had ever been to. I was only five years old at the time and at this stage of my development, I believed it to be the age where I was the most impressionable which caused me to start using my imagination for the first time. And it was at this funeral that I first learned the meaning of life and death or at least I got my first glimpse of it. I was sitting in the front row of church and I looked behind me and the church was full of people that I didn't know. The funeral was for my grandfather and it was being held in a small town in Alberta that was predominately Ukrainian. I looked at the ceiling of the church and admired all of the colorful religious paintings of Jesus and various biblical characters. I know now, but I didn't know at the time that the church was that of Ukrainian Orthodox and all around me was the strange writing of the Ukrainian alphabet known as cyrillic. I marvelled at the alphabet: there was a letter that looked like an inverted capital "N" there was also a letter that looked like a capital backwards "R". Since then I have referred to it as the backwards alphabet.
I glanced over at my mom and dad who were sitting stoically and then I fixated my eyes on the coffin that was on a stretcher of some sort. The whole atmosphere was very unsettling. We sat in silence and then there was there the slamming of a door that echoed loudly and the priest appeared in his glittering cassock. I had never seen a priest before and for a second he looked straight at me, causing me to look immediately at the floor.
He was old and had a fearsome and authoritative look. I watched him from the corner of my eye as he started to speak loudly in Ukrainian. While I was of Ukrainian descent, I did not understand the language so I just sat there listening to unfamiliar words that sounded eerie and unnerving. Then a group of ladies began to sing with him in high pitched wails that raised the hair on the back of my neck. I cuddled up to my mother and buried my head so I didn't have to listen, but I could still hear muffled voices crying in pain at the death of my grandfather. For nearly two hours the priest and the choir haunted the church with mystical chants and prayers in Ukrainian. I had never been so scared in my life. Then the priest stopped and opened the coffin and I could see the nose of my grandfather's head.
I watched as people walked by his coffin to pay their last respects. Dozens with faces from the unknown nodded to me. We were the last people in the church and my father picked me up to look in the coffin and I became terrified at my grandfather's grey skin and his lifeless face. I wanted to touch him but changed my mind. My father put me down and minutes later we were riding in a hearse. I thought everything was over but the hardest part was still to come.
At the graveyard six men propped up the coffin over the plot. The priest started in again and I just wanted to go home. When it was all done they lowered the coffin into the ground and that when I had grasped the concepts of life, death and finality.
Now as I lie on my deathbed and the priest reads me my last rites I now know I have understood the final concept one will learn in life. The concept of true inner peace. Seconds later I passed into eternity.