"One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do." -Henry Ford
It had been a good three hours or so, I had taken Peter’s little nieces outside to keep them entertained. Taking a black decorative rock from the slightly cover flower bed; I began to draw squares on the white shoveled sidewalk.
The two girls, Taylor and Jacqueline, watched me intensively number them 1-8 and placed a large half circle after the eight.
Grabbing two more stones, I handed one to each other, “This is your shooter and,” I stepped close to the first square, “you’re going to first throw your stone on the first square number one.” I dropped my stone directly on it and instructed, “Now, I have to skip over one and go to eight and back to one. Watch.”
I hopped over the first square and went down the path and stopped at the half circle. I told them, “This is a heaven spot. We can get our balance back here before going back.” I hopped back with ease and stopped at two to pick up my shooter than hopped over one again. “First person to make it through to eight wins.”
Taylor stepped up and dropped her rock onto square one and slowly tried to do the same pattern, but kept stepping out of the lines. “Try to stay inside the squares,” I laughed as Jacqueline jumped in excitement for her turn.
With her sister’s turn was done, Jacqueline placed the stone with her hand in the square and took a long jump to get over the first square and fumbled the rest of the course up. She said pleased with herself, “I’m doing it.”
After a good ten minutes, the girls were playing a competitive game.
I turned my smiling head away when hearing my named called and as my eyes flickered over I was now facing my father and his, I assumed, wife I never seen.
Immediately my smile dropped as I told the girls, “Darlings, its getting cold. Go inside and I’ll show you another fun game when I get inside.” The girls nodded their heads and went inside the funeral parlor. I asked feeling just as cold as the temperature, “Why are you here?”
My father, Ryan, responded uncomfortably, “We came to support the Sweet’s family.” His wife patted his shoulder before going inside leaving us alone. He asked, “Did you get my note?” as if he was hopeful something would change.
My spiteful thoughts bounce in my head. Did he really think his magical letter would solve the bitterness between us.
“No,” I said harshly watching his face dropped. Ryan began to open his mouth to talk some more, but I cut him off. “Look, just don’t do this. Not now. You said you were here to see the Sweets and let’s keep it that way.”
My father stepped forward frustrated and he said sharply, “I deserve at least-”
A fire that had been brewing in my belly for the past thirteen years suddenly lashed out, “No you don’t deserve one thing from me. After all the pain and shit you put me through, I deserve what I want now.”
Peter stepped out for some air and was caught off by our conversation. “And I never want to see you again.”
I grabbed Peter’s hand to drag him back inside until Peter shifted our path toward a side room. I guess he could see the rage in my eyes as he whispered, “Breath. Come on breath with me.”
I tried steadying my breath, but I had to get the repressed feeling out, “How dare he comes and thinks I could forgive him, after, after, all he’s done. How he tore my world apart and then abandoned me.” Hatred seemed to poison my veins as I thought more of him.
I could sense Peter connecting the pieces together and he responded to me something I never thought I hear him say, “Fuck him. Do you want me to throw him out?”
My mouth gaped open until his fowl language snapped my shock away. “You cursed.”
Peter abruptly broke from his rage and he slightly chuckled by my stun words, “Yes, I tend to curse every now and then Lex. But seriously, I can ask him to leave if you feel too uncomfortable.”
Yes!!!!! My thoughts screamed, but in my heart which seemed to be bigger than my father’s would ever be. I responded, “As much as I would love you too, we shouldn’t. I’ll just ignore him and focus on the important issue at hand.” I took his firm hand and asked, “How are you holding up?”
Peter smirked with uncertainty, “I’ve been better, but with my family and the neighbors and even friends I haven’t seen in years giving us support and sharing their cherish memories of her, I feel not as weighed down.”
In the background we could hear a commotion of chairs and leaning our ear closer to the direction of the sound, I could faintly hear the priest was going to announce a prayer before everyone said their last goodbyes.
Peter eyes dropped to the floor in displeasure, but I didn’t want to see him sink to that sadness again. Surprising myself, I gave him a tight hug and lead him to the parlor where his immediate family stood waiting for him.
I was about to sit into a chair before Peter’s grasp pulled me forward to join them. As the priest told a prayer for Rachael, everyone including; Mr. Sweet, Aunt Kim, Kayla and her husband named Chase, and their two daughters Taylor and Jacqueline, Peter, and me all grasped hands.
I stood there uncomfortable when sudden fear washed over me to approach any closer. Maybe this was an initial fear any adult would faced when observing death’s handy work. To ultimately flinch when witness the foreshadowing fate death had all in stored for us. Taking a breath, I need to focus on saying my last goodbye.
As I hesitantly glanced down to her, I knew I wasn’t immediate family by blood, but I began to shed tears. How could I not when she always seemed to save me from the chaos of my younger childhood?
My sadden eyes slowly scanned the person in the casket and it shocked me to see a different person I knew before. She seemed so skinny, frail and weak. If I wasn’t good at catching details, I won’t have noticed the white, fried strand of hair trying to escape the blonde wig. But with all those negatives aside, she above all looked at peace.
Kayla and her husband were the first to leave with their silent last goodbyes and Kayla whispered to her children, “Say bye to grandma.”
I watched in amazement at how unaware the children were at the situation as they waved their last goodbyes confused. They knew their grandmother wasn’t moving. Possibly they thought she was sleeping. But they couldn’t comprehend this was good bye forever.
Their grandmother wouldn’t do those simple wonderful things grandma’s loved to do with their grand kids. No baking cookies. No tight hugs of love. No corny jokes. Or just the fact she wouldn’t be with them. She was dead.
But perhaps that was the beauty of the innocents of childhood; it somehow always protected us from the harsh reality of the world, I pondered again.
Peter hand broke away from his father and I knew that was my cue he was ready to go to the limo to travel to our next destination. His father too broke away from the casket and Peter wrapped his arm around his father, who was crying in pain.
I quickly wished Rachael peace and happiness in heaven.
In the limo, everyone was crying and I rested my head onto Peter’s shoulder in comfort. I seemed overwhelmed with all my loved ones suffering and crying in sadness. Thankfully the church wasn’t so far away and we enter a big stone church called St. Theresa’s. It was a pretty church with its stain glass windows and interesting statues of Jesus making his sacrifice for sinners.
As we sat in the pew, I really had no clue as to what rituals of Catholics, but I followed suit and respected their customs to support Peter. Like Jackie Robinson quoted, I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me…All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
After so long, Peter stood up to make his eulogy he was afraid to do before. Taking a deep breath for Peter, he began to recite,
“Good evening everyone. I’m glad everyone could come and join us to celebrate Rachael’s life in heaven. Today, I will try with my very being to describe one of the best people I had the privilege to grow up with as a last wish of hers. Rachael Sweet, was many things, a devote wife, a loving mother and the best friend you could ever have asked for. But in my mind, my mother was two things. Sweet and short. And she’s didn’t need my father’s last name to prove that.”
Some people in the pews gave a slight chuckle and Peter shifted uncomfortably. He continued to say, “My mother was sweet, meaning someone who shows compassion. Soft-spoken. Never judged and has an open mind. A kind, thoughtful person that you would like to hang around. My mother embodied the meaning of that word. No matter what she would offer help to any person in need and never expect anything in return. She would go out of her way and do that extra mile to make others happy. And she always put herself second because she had the biggest heart when it came to loving others.”
His voice was starting to lighten up as he continued to say, “And as for the short, yes she was a tiny woman, but I’m not taking this as a literal context. This one woman did so much in a short span. She had always done volunteering for school and church functions, joined and become head of our neighborhood council, she started a historical tour during the Christmas holidays and also helped post and spread the word of any animals that needed a home. Beyond that, she ran a fine home, cherished her husband, made the best meat loaf and raised two children that had always been loved and always been supported in all of our dreams.”
My eyes glance around to find his father and sister bowing their head in agreement. “Short as her life was, I will still never forget her strong belief she instilled in our family. ‘Don’t talk; just do. Actions will always speak louder than words.’ And now I understand what she meant by it; there is a big difference between saying you’re going to do something and actually taking action to do it. For it’s those people that live on throughout history and lie in our hearts.”
Peter cleared his throat and started to wrap up, “I had thought and asked many times before why this was happening to such a loving and sweet woman and finally she gave me her answer. She believed her soul purpose having such a short life was to prove to us that we can do many wonderful good things just by acting in a short span. And she hoped to encourage us all to ‘not talk but just do’, because we are still here in good health. That was Rachael Sweet to the core and I hope you will always have her spirit of kindness forever in your hearts.”
Peter walked back to his seat next to me and grasped my hand once more as if I was his last life line that held him ground on the earth. Giving a reassuring squeeze, his sweet brown eyes that still held sorrow flicker another emotion down at me.
At the end of the mass the coffin was transfer back into the hearse and finally we made the last stop of the day.
Standing on the frozen ground in the cemetery, the priest finally gave another prayer and each one of us placed a rose on top of the coffin. Slowly people started to depart more and more, leaving only the immediate family still trying to let go.
Glancing up to Peter, his body became stiff and I followed where his locked eyes landed. My father and his wife, moved toward the family and began to say their sorry and goodbye.
I tightened too as my father finally stood in front of us and awkward enough we hugged with me desperately not trying to start a soap opera. But surprising as it is he whispered in my ear, “Please read it.” And with that he left leaving me with another paper burning in my hands.
Peter shifted toward me and I nodded my head for us to move away from the burial ground. While crunching through the snow, I all of a sudden had this dire want to keep walking and just disappear into the woods ahead.
I was feeling something I hadn’t in awhile. The urge to know. To care why my father left. My heart seemed to pound in my chest from that frightening notion.
Suddenly I felt my frozen hand being held to stop my quickened pace and I pivot to find Peter search my eyes before perplexity swept over his face. Peter now felt the paper in my numb hands.
Taking it out, I didn’t resist Peter cautiously open it up and read it. His brown eyes maneuvered back to me quickly and I was suddenly struck with an odd thought.
It was that quick of a note? I wonder if it just said the genetic catch phrase, I’m sorry.
His pursed lips said the words I couldn’t read. “Talk to your mother.”
I blinked a few times in bewilderment as I ripped the paper out of his hands. “That’s all it said???”
No apology. No sob story. No lame sorry excuse why he left. Just talk to your mother? What the fuc-
Peter shook his head and finally said in the dead silence, “Weird, right?”
I shook my head stunned.
Weird wouldn’t even cover it, I thought.