Saturday, the day of Kenny’s funeral, dawned a dreary gray. How many movies had Dixie watched, the scene of a rain-drenched cemetery dotted by black umbrellas tugging at the heart? It looked like it would be that kind of day.
Joe had gotten settled at home the day before. Sharon and Dixie had gone to pick him up from the hospital. Nellie Parker had met them at his house. A retired nurse in their church with a heart for helping, she had volunteered to spend the first couple of nights with him to keep an eye on things. They had gotten him settled, fed him lunch, and spent a little time visiting. Dixie wanted to make sure Joe handled being back in his house without any issues, after the trauma he had endured there. After getting him situated she was satisfied that he would be fine with Nellie. He was sad, but he was at peace. They left in the early afternoon to let him rest.
Nellie was planning on bringing Joe to church for the funeral today. Richard and Dixie had told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. Dixie couldn’t blame him. He had been close to Kenny in the short time they’d known each other, and had even tried to save his life. She would have felt the same way.
Dixie dressed in a black pencil skirt and blazer with pearls, and headed downstairs for breakfast. At the bottom of the stairs she noticed the light on in the den. Her father sat in his chair, a cup of coffee and bible in hand. He was intent on its pages. Dixie imagined he was gathering strength for the day ahead and collecting his thoughts for Kenny’s service.
In the kitchen her mother sat at the table, her own cup of coffee and the newspaper spread out in front of her. When she heard Dixie’s footsteps she looked up and smiled in greeting. Dixie could get used to her smile, she noticed for the first time in a long while it reached to her eyes.
“Good morning dear, can I get you some breakfast?”
The word dear, that had once sounded cold, didn’t bother Dixie anymore. It actually sounded loving instead of forced.
“No thank you, I’m just going to have coffee and a yogurt.” She saw her mother’s eyes flicker and a protest form on her lips, but just as quickly she thought better of it and it disappeared.
“You look pretty. You’re ready early.” The service wasn’t until 11:00 p.m., it was just 8:30 a.m. now.
“I know, I wanted to be there when he was brought to the church. I’m also going to pick up Gabriel on the way so I’ll leave in an hour or so.”
“I understand. Daddy won’t be far behind you. He’s just taking a little time to prepare now. But he said he wanted to be at church by 10:00 as well.”
The clouds burst at that moment and emptied their contents on the town. Sharon and Dixie both looked at the window as if to confirm the downpour was indeed a reality.
“Rain for a funeral is so inconvenient but I always felt it was appropriate, as if God had joined his grief with ours. Such a thought is comforting - that he would commiserate with us lowly mortals.”
Dixie stared at her mother, surprised, she had never heard her so poetic or expressive. Her mother caught her startled look and chuckled. “What? Have you never heard me indulge in romantic notions before?”
Dixie shook her head.
“Well, where do you think your imagination came from? It’s not all from your father, he’s really quite practical himself.”
Would wonders never cease. You thought you knew a person and then before your very eyes there emerged a new side of them, or they changed all together. Rebirth, Dixie supposed, was a human’s birthright, part of the journey on the road to transformation.
Dixie finished her coffee, then ran upstairs to brush her teeth and grab her bag. On her way back down she stopped by the den.
Richard looked up at his daughter. She looked beautiful. “It still surprises me that you’re grown, I half expect to see a little freckle faced girl come bouncing into the room with braids and missing front teeth. But it’s been years since that little girl has visited.” Dixie was giving him a strange look. He reined in his emotion. “What can I do for you, darlin’.”
“Thank you for taking care of Kenny’s funeral. It means a lot to me, Daddy.”
He reached out for her hand and pulled her down to sit on the arm of his chair. “It’s the least I could do, honey.” He pulled a copper curl through his fingers. “I wish things had turned out differently. But they didn’t. At least we can honor his life and lay him to rest properly.”
She kissed his forehead. “I’m going to pick up Gabriel now. He asked to ride with me. His family will meet him there and take him home after. I wanted to be at the church when,” she swallowed hard, “when they bring Kenny over.”
“Alright sweetheart. I’ll be there soon. Just need to put on my tie and coat.”
Gabriel’s dad lifted his son up onto the seat of Dixie’s truck and then handed up his forearm crutches. “Thanks for letting him ride with me,” Dixie said.
“He insisted. He’s a pretty strong minded little fella.” His dad’s smile was proud. “We’ll meet you there in an hour.”
The ride to the church was quiet. Dixie was preoccupied with her thoughts, and Gabriel respected her need. After parking she helped her little friend inside. The church was empty. They settled on the front row side by side.
“I found Kenny’s journal, buddy. He wrote about trusting Jesus for forgiveness. I thought you would want to know.” He gave her a big smile. “How are you doing buddy? Do you have any questions?”
“I’m glad he believed in Jesus to forgive him,” said her little friend. “What happens after the funeral?”
“Well, we will go out to the cemetery and tell Kenny goodbye.” Dixie had to swallow past a lump in her throat. “When we leave he will be buried in the ground. Later we can come and bring flowers and remember him if you want to.”
“I want to.”
“Me too, Gabriel. I’ll always remember Kenny.”
By 10:00 o’clock the men from Mortimers had arrived. Richard met them in the church foyer and gave them directions. They brought the simple wood casket to the front of the church; an arrangement of greenery and fall flowers was set carefully on top. Joe had asked to purchase the flower arrangement, but everything else had been taken care of by Dixie’s parents. The men stationed themselves in the back to assist as people arrived.
Dixie stood and rested her hand on the casket, Richard joined her, as did Gabriel.
Richard brushed the tears from his daughter’s cheek. “He changed our lives, didn’t he? It was said more to himself than anyone else.
Gabriel slipped his little hand into Dixie’s. She was thankful for their presence.
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll,” Dixie sang softly, “whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” Richard and Gabriel joined her on the chorus. “It is well, with my soul, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” Together the trio sang three verses of the beloved hymn. A declaration of hope and trust in God who sees us all. They embraced and Richard moved to the back of the sanctuary to direct the first guests.
“Thank you for being my friend,” Dixie whispered, her hand resting on the smooth wood.
Gabriel reached up his little hand and said, “Me too.”
Dixie kissed Gabriel’s blonde hair and they walked to the back of the church to greet people with Richard.