The Aftermath of Death

Andra Watkins
4 min readJul 15, 2019

How one NYT bestselling author deals with grief and loss as it happens. Read to know you’re not alone.

In the aftermath of death, she ferries ashes across town.

She doesn’t feel a thing. The cardboard box is nothing more than a package hastily ordered via an app. Tape pristine. No fingerprints or creases. She admires the crematorium logo as she shoves the load into the car.

At her sprawling destination, she parks the Fiat in the sun. Says hi to Tom, who always offers the best lopsided smile from his motorized wheelchair. She even stops to squeeze his good hand.

“I’ve got this,” she thinks and signs in at the counter. Hurries up one flight of steps. She ignores the echoes in the long hallway.

I don’t like this place. I’m going to die here.

The stench overwhelms her as soon as she opens the apartment door. A wingback chair blocks the entry. She shimmies around it, determined to tackle the kitchen first.

Because nobody died in the kitchen.

She focuses on the shelf of smiley faces, a credo in mugs and vases and beanie toys. Under the circumstances, their smiles are demonic, hideous, a threat.

She darts into the bedroom to escape their gaze. The body is still there. On the floor. Not in the cardboard box, sealed with clean tape. Why didn’t they take the body away?

Tears are tricksters. They distort. They reveal.

She realizes it’s only a soiled clump of sheets and pillows and towels. A deathbed shroud abandoned and preserved for over two weeks. The shape of a body. The lingering smells. That accusing voice seeps through the stark thread count.

You brought me here to die.

A sheet conceals us. Protects us. Preserves sweat and snot and skin. Leavings to haunt the living.

She is still crying when she locks herself in her condo. She sits at her desk scattered with paperwork. The looming administration of the aftermath of death. The tasks we impose to rub the noses of the grieving into the stain of loss.

Andra Watkins

NYT bestselling author NOT WITHOUT MY FATHER | speaker | dreamer | risk-taker | travel whore | turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did