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I walked into the basement of the funeral home and the man handling the service asked if I wanted to have a minute with my father before they put his body into the furnace.

I could see him on the table in another room.

“Thank you.”

And so I approached the body, looked at his vacant face, and touched his hand. It was cold, foreign, lifeless and frigid. I felt it then, all of it. I felt the weight of isolation. My father was an object now, and in a few minutes, he’d be soot. Erased from the world, and I was still here.

I missed him at that moment, and I miss him now.

When I touched his cold hand, I wanted to tell him. I wanted to let him know the complex thought I had, about how we all become cold slabs of cellular fabric someday, and then a stranger chaperones us into a crematorium furnace. I wanted to tell him that it doesn’t seem right that someone we never knew when we were alive, would be the last person to see us before we’re just ashes in a jar. It seemed like the kind of thought he would have liked, proud of my deconstruction of the process. But I will never feel the sensation of pride from my father again.

“Thank you.”

I turned my back and walked upstairs to talk with my mom about the funeral arrangements. He would have been proud of my composure then. Not everyone can touch a cold hand like that. But I’m still not sure I can either.