I spot imposing black gates approach and my thoughts scatter like ants before a storm. The car turns right and through the formidable entry, travelling a short distance before it stops. My senses sharpen and time slows. I sit up straight, and hear Henry click the engine off … watch him move to open his door … his suit rubbing against the upholstery … thud. I stiffen. I hear his steps clip the asphalt, and my door opens. I can barely breathe. The emotions we left half an hour earlier at the church, smother me. People everywhere, shuffling in black suits, dresses and polished shoes that belong in offices. Black engulfs me.
Henry leads me out of the car and slams my door shut. I gasp and breathe deep, unwittingly consuming the sorrow that surrounds me to sour my swallow. No one speaks. The stares of good intentions penetrate me to my core. I see the tears and crumpled tissues … the sombreness. I’m not thinking anymore and simply move and do what I am told. My senses smother to merge as one blob.
Then suddenly through an opening, my eyes fix on the green-grass matting around a dark rectangle on the ground. There it is. The grave. Dad is going into that hole! Tears stream down my cheeks. I can’t move. I feel hands on my arms, supporting me. It’s Freddy and Obie. I slump against Obie and drop my head onto his chest. I sob. I feel Freddy’s arms around us. Someone in painted pink fingernails and gold rings hands me a clump of tissues.
I know I have to compose myself to get through the rest of the funeral. I take a deep breath and mop at my face with damp tissues, then from nowhere, David appears to guide us forward. I notice Henry leading Mum towards the grave with my aunt and uncle holding her by an elbow each. Two lines of people stand either side of us with heads bowed as we walk behind Mum and through their silent guard of honour.
Finally, we reach the green matting surrounding the edge of that deep hole. I stand close to my brothers, drawing what strength they may have left in them. Mum’s beside us. And then there’s Dad, in that coffin with his favourite red tulips sprawled across the top, balancing on green, nylon straps. We wait.
The priest begins to speak. ‘We come to our final farewell …’ I hear nothing else after those first few words and just stare at the coffin, mesmerised by the reality that Dad is laying inside. The coffin begins to descend into the hole, revealing craggy walls of rich, brown earth as it lowers down, down, down, until I can no longer see it. A shiver sweeps over me. The coffin is gone. Dad is gone.
David breaks my trance by handing my brothers and me a red tulip each from a basket. ‘Your last goodbye,’ he murmurs. Tears roll again.
‘Come on,’ says Freddy gently. ‘We’ll do this together.’
I watch Mum throw her tulip down before merging into the arms of those gathered around her. I kiss the tulip and see Freddy and Obie do the same.
‘Bye, Dad,’ I whisper. I toss the flower into the hole with my brothers’ flowers. Thud, three times. I step back from the hole and linger with Freddy and Obie, trembling in waves of shivers.
* An excerpt from my Snippets of Sadie novel that I’m currently working on.