Lying on soft white padding trimmed with lace my wife looks like she's fast asleep dreaming of wondrous things. I place my hand on hers like I've done countless times over the last sixty six years but her hand, now cold, didn't respond the way it used to. Tears watered my vision as I gripped her hand tighter hoping I would wake up soon and realize this is all just a nightmare.
I felt someone squeeze my shoulder gently so I looked to my right and saw our son Zachery standing next to me with water glistening in his own eyes. Before I could say anything I heard someone speak from my other side.
"Mom looks peaceful doesn't she?" a feminine voice asked.
Looking to my left I saw our daughter Rose holding a tissue to her now red nose. I couldn't think of a response that would comfort her so I just put one arm around each of our kids and looked at my wife. How could holding my children feel so real when nothing else about this nightmare did?
My mind drifted back to a scene of us lying together on our bed just a week or so ago. Danielle had been fighting cancer for only a short period of time but it had moved fast. She fought with every ounce of strength she had, which was considerable from such a strong willed woman.
Vaguely I saw parts of the room move across my vision and realized my daughter was leading me towards the front row seats they always reserved for family. As I sat down my surroundings began to come into focus more and I saw Danielle's face just above the edge of a silver casket surrounded by flowers.
Next to her was the podium where a man in a black suit began to talk. The words were foggy but I knew from past experiences that the pastor had begun the eulogy. I knew he would say how wonderful of a person she was and maybe even tell a version of her life's story. He would never hit close to the mark of how amazing that woman was.
I held no interest to hear his version of things so I let my eyes gloss over so that only Danielle's face was left in my vision. My mind started where it had left off before being interrupted.
Danielle had decided to live out the rest of her life in our own house and surrounded by the people she loved. A couple weeks ago Danielle had grown too weak to get out of bed so I stayed by her side to help however I could.
I would read her books when she was awake, describe the scenery from the bedroom window, and bring her food that I cooked just for her. Quite often nothing would stay down so I would clean her up and make sure she was comfortable before throwing everything in the washing machine.
On what was to be the last moments of her life she took my hand in hers and looked into my eyes. I held on tight knowing how much it must have drained her to do that simple motion. Now I wonder that if she hadn't moved so much...
A blast of heat brought me back to the world. The service in the funeral home was over and we were being moved outside. Rose was escorting me to the other side of the black hearse parked near the doorway. Moments later I saw Zachery and some of his cousins carrying a closed silver casket out of the funeral home.
Since everyone close to me was quiet I could actually hear the heavier breathing of the men carrying my wife. They gingerly placed the casket in the back of the hearse and slid it forward. Both of our children took one of my arms and led me to the next car waiting in line.
The long trip to the cemetery on the other side of town felt like mere minutes as I stared at the trees moving outside the car. When we arrived at the gravesite our kids helped me out of the car and escorted me to another chair. This chair sat on top of fake grass facing a polished metal contraption I knew would eventually lower my wife into the ground.
To keep from looking at the evil machinery I looked around the cemetery. At the bottom of the hill ran a small creek lined with more trees. I remember the two of us walking through this cemetery with a map of available plots. When we reached this spot she stopped and looked around.
I took her hand in mine and waited patiently for her to talk first. After looking around myself I glanced at her face and saw those beautiful blues eyes wet with tears looking back at me.
"Isn't this the most beautiful spot Matt? I think we could spend eternity looking at that creek trickling by while the tree branches sway in the wind," Danielle said as she pointed towards everything as she spoke.
I squeezed her hand then put my arm around her shoulders as I replied, "Yes it is darling."
In truth, I didn't care where we were laid to rest as long as I got to be by her side. She put her head on my shoulder and wrapped me in her arms. I rested my head against hers and we swayed with the trees for a time. I'll never forget the smell of her hair as I held her close.
A cough nearby stirred me back to the present and I was surprised to see the silver casket covered with daisies in front of me. Reds, yellows, blues, and violets reflected off the polished finish. The whole thing was resting on the machine that held her above a deep hole in the ground.
Tears ran down my cheek when I realized I had already seen her beautiful face for the last time in this world. How badly I wanted to walk over to the casket and open it so I could see her just one more time.
In the background I could hear the muffled words of the pastor but I couldn't keep from looking at the silver casket covered in all sorts of bright colors.
Nothing else mattered.
She had been my whole life ever since the day we met back in college. I could still see her standing next to a giant maple tree with her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail surrounded by all of her friends. When I spotted her among the crowd my heart stopped. Only when our eyes met did I feel my heart thud back to life. She was gorgeous and I fell completely in love with her in that moment.
We dated all throughout our college years and when graduation came I proposed. Having little to no money to my name the proposal was simple and the ring even more so. None of that mattered when I looked up to her and saw the biggest smile on her face with tears of happiness in her eyes. That day my world became complete.
Something stirred me back into the real world again. This time everyone was beginning to walk by the casket saying their final farewells. Some reached out and touched it while others simply walked on by. As they left most stopped to say a word or two of kindness to me but it was all meaningless. What could you possibly say to someone to make them feel any better at a time like this?
The parade of people finally ended and my son helped me so I could walk over to where Danielle rested. Through the tears I put both hands on the casket and gave her one last kiss. "I love you Danielle," I managed to say as I held on to the casket with a hug. I saw my tears run down the side and drop into the dark hole in the ground.
I don't know who moved me away from her but I know I didn't do it willingly. If I had it my way I would have followed her into the ground. I couldn't think of any reason why I couldn't.
YOU ARE READING
After the FuneralShort Story
Matt is an elderly man that just lost his wife of sixty six years. He's finding out that losing someone so close to him is more than he can handle. As memories of her resurface he finds that he prefers her company to the real world he finds so cold...