The following day the three brothers and their mother found themselves standing in a funeral home. Their mother was hugging her arms and looked small next to her three boys, all of which were at least a head taller than her. Gabriel remained composed trying to be a model for his two younger brothers. Uriel busied himself with the casket wall, trying to find the right one for their father, Elijah stood next to their mother, holding her in one arm.
When the funeral director entered the waiting room he greeted them with a macabre smile and cold handshake.
“Welcome to Smith and Sons,” the funeral director said smoothly. “I am Joseph. You must be the Richardson Family.”
Gabriel took Joseph’s cold hand in his. He wondered why funeral directors hands were always cold.
“Yes,” he answered. “I’m Gabriel; these are my brothers, Elijah and Uriel, and our mother, Chloe.”
“We are so sorry for your loss,” Joseph said evenly. “Rest assured we will make ever accommodation for your family. Why don’t you follow me over here and let’s have some time to talk.” They followed him into a small room with a large couch and a few arm chairs that created a small circle. Within the circle of seating and low coffee table stood holding up a small vase of blue flowers and a box of tissues. There was a large picture window open to grounds behind the home. The cemetery began just below the hill, but that could not been seen from this vantage point. The grounds were delightfully kept, with great trees that towered over the green grasses. A gardener was busy raking the leaves from the ground and putting them in bags.
“Please, have a seat,” Joseph gestured to the couch. Chloe sat in the middle of the great couch while Elijah and Uriel flanked her on either side. Gabriel and Joseph took the arm chairs.
“How are you holding up, Mrs. Richardson?” Joseph asked kindly.
Chloe did not respond her gaze fixed on the floor.
“She’s grieving,” Gabriel chimed in.
“You were married for forty years?” Joseph asked.
“Forty-two,” Chloe said vacantly.
“Ah, excuse me,” Joseph apologized and made a note. “And you are a Catholic family?”
“Yes,” Gabriel answered.
“Will you be having a Catholic Service then?”
“Yes,” Gabriel answered.
“Very good,” Joseph made another note.
The rest of the interview went on in a blur of questions to Gabriel. What kind of funeral service, when calling hours should be held, how many people should be accommodated, type of casket, headstone, flowers, speakers, readings, pastor or priest…all these things Gabriel found himself answering with a strange out of body experience. Was this really happening? When would the nightmare end?
His mother, Chloe, remained silent, keeping her eyes to the floor. His brothers took a vested interest in the planning. He was proud of them, their maturity shone brightly in the dull funeral room. After the meeting had concluded, it was time to locate the plot. There were several to choose from and they took their time touring each one. The cemetery was pleasant, with a small stream running through it and tall maple trees now turning brilliant shades of golden amber.
The first plot they came to was in the center of a great field of headstones. There were few trees nearby and a great family vault towered over the empty plot. The boys discussed this place at length, trying to find exactly why this wouldn’t possibly fit.
“Where would I plant flowers?” their mother finally said. It was the first words she’d spoken in several hours. That was all they needed to hear from her. They moved onto the next plot. It was not much better, a great tree was maybe a few paces away, but the older tombstones made them feel like they were lost in time.
The third plot was a winner! Right by the stream, a great weeping willow gently cradled the area in her lovely arms.
“This is it,” Chloe said gently. And for the first time since Gabriel came home, he saw his mother smile.