Dead Men Tell no Tales

Ironic as it were, I was the last in line to pay my respects. I cannot recall the month, nor the year. Perhaps it was late winter. It was a gloomy day, nonetheless. A cold breeze crawled over my skin and settled in my spine. The sun did shine, but not in its usual bright fashion. It seemed shy and pale. The sky matched beautifully to the grey and black attire of the crowd. A row of strangers shuffled on before me, taking turns in pouring their mourning into the open grave. With a generous flow of tears they gave their due condolences to my brothers and sister; sympathetically and pathetically. I never did have much desire for such a frantic display of emotion. Still, the sobs from my stepmother washed through me like ice water. It inspired in me a guilt that not even Judas could have felt. Yet, was it not I who had been betrayed by my own maker? The line progressed steadily as the last of the family and friends had their turn at the grave. Now it was merely the rest of us. We were that small group at a funeral that everyone else wonders about.

I could catch the nodding heads in the corner of my eye, their own eyes directed at me, fingers pointing from under their hips as if no one would notice.

“Who is that?” someone would say.

“No idea. Never seen him before,” the reply would come.

Smile-and-nod is the general rule in such situations. Never had I ever received that many smiles and that many nods. How peculiar is not the mourning ritual when it is revived anew at the side of an open grave? For suddenly everyone feels the intense need to out-mourn their fellow grievers. Cursed be he whom mourns the least!

Anxiety pulsed in my chest as my eyes set on the coffin. It was not hurt or pain or grieve. It was the guilt again. With a hard sigh I managed to dispel most of the turmoil that ravaged my thoughts. I drew a deep breath and brought with it silence. I was well practiced at deceiving myself and was soon void of emotion once more. The pastor placed his palm on my back. His expression was as dry as the soil that I had just poured by the handful on my father’s coffin.

“The rose,” he said, nodding impatiently at the red flower in my hand. “Are you going to put it on the coffin?”

I shook my head from side to side.

“It is to show your respect” he replied.

“And that,” I said, “is why I’d rather give it to my mother.”