You’re at a burial, dressed in shoes you didn’t have time to polish or lace up correctly. It’s a grey sort of day, overcast with rain coming soon. They’re lowering the casket into the ground and all you can do is stare at the stubborn knot in your shoelaces.
Someone lights up a cigarette after the service is over and you move away to avoid the smoke. Your heels slip into the soft ground and you get mud on the hemline of your clothes. You stop to catch your breath after a long day and close your eyes. You smell rain in the air.
There’s a piano you can hear in the nearby chapel playing a soft tune. You think they’re playing “Amazing Grace” and then it changes. A sudden thought strikes you: “I must get back into the car before the last note. Once the last note plays, it’ll start raining.”
You’re heading back to the car when you see a man standing at the fence. He’s dressed in overalls and a flannel shirt, looking directly at you. You glance away but are drawn back by the man’s intense stare. He’s holding something in his hand. A letter? A book? You can’t tell. You feel you must find out, before the last piano note…
I sauntered over to the man, returning his stare.
” You seem very distressed” he says, nodding in the direction of the mourners “Did you know him well”.
“I barely knew him. How about you”.
He gestured to the note book he was holding ” I’m a reporter for the Daily News. Just doing a general interest story. I heard he was a local celebrity”.
” I wouldn’t know”. I replied and walked away.
A figure emerged from the crowd of mourners and moved in my direction. I sighed and picked up the pace, scurrying towards the parking lot. I heard the click of heels running along the pathway.
“Mary, Mary, wait up. You can’t be leaving already. You have to throw your flower on the grave”.
I turned towards my sister, irritation showing ” This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into coming here. I’ll see you back at the house”.
I felt the first splashes of rain and started running towards my car. I could hear the final refrain of ‘Amazing Grace’ echoing from the grave yard. Feeling wretched and lost I fumbled for my car keys, pushed the remote entry button and stumbled into the drivers seat.
I sat there, staring into space, trying to ignite some feeling. Surely I should feel something. I tried to resurrect some Christian spark of forgiveness and reconciliation, long since buried. There was no spark to ignite the flame. Here was an opportunity, but Divine Grace was absent and it was not well for my soul.
” He was changed by the war” my mother used to say, ” he wasn’t the same man when he came back”. My mother was a strong woman, never backing down from his rants and abuse, as he continued to battle his raging demons. But I wasn’t my mother and spent my childhood hiding in my room, wishing he had died in the war and never returned. I left home at eighteen and never looked back. So here I am, having not thought of my father for thirty years, trying to come to terms with my feelings. Except there were no feelings, no emotions, just emptiness.
My sister said he had changed in later years, come to terms with his demons and volunteered in various capacities in the community. He had become a respected figure. Perhaps there was one emotion I felt. Regret. Should I have attempted reconciliation? My mother would phone me frequently but I never wanted to talk about him. I had no interest in how he was doing. The tears started coming unbidden then. Perhaps from regret. I closed my eyes and prayed.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.