They whisk the casket out of sight in a quick motion that you miss because it has just been announced there will be a reception back at the house with light refreshments and people are chatting to break the tension, or patting at their eyes, or sighing into the misty rain.
Of course it would be raining and chilly for the day of the funeral and burial, after that freakish 90 degree day.
Well, you know, they call it a burial, but it isn’t really. They bury the casket later. The thing you watch is the military honors– the folding of the flag, the prayer, the guns being shot off into the sky, and the bugle whining day is done, gone the sun, from the hill, from the lake, from the sky, all is well, safely rest, god is nigh.
You blink and the casket is whisked away, someplace behind the shelter where we all stood shivering. I mean, really, it was freaking 90 degrees the day before, what the heck?
You blink and the reddish wood capsule bearing his body is gone as if in a slight of hand.
In a way it is kind of nice, because even though you and your uncle were not that close, it would have been devastating to see his casket eaten up by a wet, earthy mouth, to watch his family seeing it. You don’t need to see that. Or maybe you do. I wouldn’t really know because I don’t go to a ton of these things. Which is a good thing, if you think about it.
You blink and he is gone and you are left thinking about the last time you saw him at the big birthday for great-grandfather. You can picture him standing there talking with people in that dignified and kind manner he had. And then you get to wondering if he was wearing his wedding ring in the casket. Will they bury him with his wedding ring? Or did they take it off and give it to aunty widow?
You can see (will always see) the silvery hairs on his cheeks. Don’t they shave the dead before they put them on display, you wondered, or is that the thing where hair keeps growing even after you die? You can see his waft of gray hair on his head, and his grayish complexion, and the rosary woven around his stiff hands, and how the rest of his body disappearing into the cave of the casket looked kind of flattened out.
But part of your brain shut down because you were looking at the dead body of your uncle, who would never play badminton at another family picnic again, so when you try to remember this stuff, it is like remembering information that happened a very long time ago, and it is fuzzy, vague, frustrating.
Is it weird you wish you had looked a little harder, remembered more details, like weather or not he was wearing his wedding ring?
The bugle’s song echoes in your mind and you snort a sob back into your sinuses.
You are stifled by the need to not see your father cry for his brother, to not think about the photos of them as boys, to not realize even for a moment that someday it will be him. Grief is awkward, like running into your ex in the supermarket when you’ve just run in for a quick something and you’re not wearing makeup and your hair is in a pony tail. Maybe you’re even wearing yoga pants. Yeah, for the sake of that analogy, let’s go with you’re wearing yoga pants, but it is very clear you’ve not just come from yoga class.
You can’t cry, even though you want to, so you hand out tissues to other people and say what a beautiful service it was, how everyone said just the right thing, how you learned this or that. Did someone say he worked for the CIA?
And while you spend a fraction of an instant thinking all this, they whisk the casket out of sight. You saw the cemetery guy put the tag with some sort of identification onto it, and your ears partly registered the wheeling away, but you weren’t looking and you didn’t actually see it go.
You’ve been staring at that casket for a day, open and shut, in the funeral home and church, and now suddenly it is gone and you didn’t see it go. Part of you is relieved, but another part of you thinks how you will never see him again.