March 12, 2008


He sat in the eighth pew on the right side of the chapel, his attention focused on the hand-held electronic game (with silent mode activated) that nearly fit in the palm of his hand. It would have completely fit, if his hands weren't so small. He took occasional breaks from the game to fiddle with the tie he proudly wore, or to look around at all the people and all the flowers. He wondered what the next hour or two would bring.

Then the service began. A priest in a white robe walked up the center aisle, followed by the wooden casket and the pallbearers. His aunt was one of those who guided the casket with white-gloved hands. For a moment, he forgot about the game.

When everyone was asked to stand, he stood. When everyone knelt, he knelt, though kneeling was strange to him. He'd never knelt like this before. He listened as his father read a scripture, and as his grandmother voiced the obituary. Then he remembered his game. The significance of the day was not clear to him, but he knew that it was an important day.

There were one hundred people in that chapel. Most of them he was related to, though he didn't know how. After the service, they went outside to the expansive cemetery. The casket went, too. With a confident voice that could be heard over the low roar of distant freeway traffic, the priest pronounced a final blessing on the one whose body lay inside that wooden box: "May the Lord bless her and keep her, may the Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious to her; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon her, and give her peace." He'd heard those words before.

Then he took his place in line to lay a carnation on the casket.

I don't know what he understood or didn't understand about that day. I do know that he'll remember it. He'll remember that he has a big family who loves him. He'll remember that, on this occasion, his family came together, some from far away, to mark a significant event. He'll remember the smiles, the hugs, and the tears that were shed. And in his heart, there will be a little more room for God and family.


Rebecca said...

Danny - sorry to read about the loss of your grandmother.

And what a beautiful essay, too.

Peace and prayers,

Rebecca Woods

kathy a. said...

also holding thoughts for you and your family.