In her infinite calm she hardly looked her age. Her skin was smooth and her mouth was held just so, as if she’d fallen asleep while trying to hold a sneeze, and the instant had turned into a century.
There were flowers all around, gracefully arranged. On a small table nearby were two pictures: a portrait taken during her senior year of high school, and a snapshot of her smiling on her eightieth birthday, secure in her home among cards and flowers and all the things she loved.
In her visitation book were the names of several old friends, people who had driven miles to pay their respects and see her one last time — who had left home, left work, and braved the traffic with that thought foremost in their minds. Little did they know that when we arrived after driving seven hundred miles from Oregon, their presence would still be felt in the room.
In the office, I signed papers and took care of matters related to her burial.
And then the time came for the lid of her casket to be closed forever, and the short journey across the street to her graveside.
The smell of newly cut grass arrived straight from my childhood.
For half an hour, there was a glorious general commotion as friends and relatives greeted each other and gabbed after not having met for many years. This sound she would have loved.
“I’m sorry we had to meet under such sad circumstances.”
“No,” I said, time and again. “This is beautiful, just as it should be.”
One cousin hugged me so hard he almost broke my glasses. I took them off to see if he’d twisted the frame.
Familiar hands slid the casket in place.
We were seated. The service began. She was spoken of kindly with reverence, remembered truthfully and without exaggeration for her patience, ability, unselfishness, and love. The eulogy I’d written was read. The soil once blessed, her three sons filled their right hands, and then emptied them slowly onto the lid, directly above her head.
The service came to an end.
The hubbub began again, more gently this time, softly, sounding both distant and near, as if more were speaking than were there.
In memory of my mother and friend, Laura, who passed away from causes related to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of ninety-one on the twenty-fifth day of September, in the two thousand thirteenth year. Peace.