It was something I'd imagined attending. My mom had paid for the funeral years ago, chosen the casket, everything. Grandma herself had planned it all out, the hymns and the readings. Death hadn't been unwelcome. We'd stood together over the grave of my Aunt Betty once. She'd said, "I'll be down there soon, Jess." Sounding like she was looking forward to that--rejoining. Moving on. My sister told me that her last words were, "I'm tired. My mama's coming to get me."
I thought about the story that she was born out of wedlock, raised by her aunt--her real mother always nearby, the favorite aunt.
One hundred years in the northwest corner of South Carolina. Now there she was in the front of the church, lying in that paid-for casket. I tried to imagine what she would look like. At the end of the service, they turned the casket and started rolling it back down the aisle. Show's over, everybody. That was a life.
We rode to the cemetery in a Cadillac limo, the police escort blocking the intersections--momentum keeping that sense of solemnity. A short graveside service and the funeral director, an appropriately condolent look on his youthful face, beckoning everyone to come away while the casket was put in the ground. We cousins stayed. Feeling that we needed to bear witness to that casket disappearing into the red earth.