My uncle's mother died last week. She was so light the wind might as well have picked her up and knocked her into a tree. But she went by usual means, being old, the body wearing out.
She was a full-voiced woman despite her thin body. Pictures at her wake showed her to be of beauty that is regal in its reserve. In one picture, she sat on a sofa in a billowy gown made pink after the photo was developed.
My uncle's brother gave a bare-souled eulogy. The pallbearers carried her out to the hearse, and we sat in our idling cars. The snow was more like mist.
We took surface roads for a while, then we got on the expressway headed east. I swore. I was the last car, the flashers on my hatchback frantically warning people to get out of our lane. Cars and SUVs ran up and slid around me in the slush. I swore more. I swore at the woman ahead of me, her spine too collapsed for me to see her past her seat. I told her she was driving too slowly, that she had to keep up because I didn't know where we were going. I put some music on to camouflage my swearing inside of singing.
Finally, after miles, after arriving in an outermost suburb, we turned off into the cemetery, its gravel path soaked with winter. By the time I got out of the car, the casket rested on its support. We walked up the grass, across headstones we couldn't see under the snow. The pastor said a few words, very few, the temperature below freezing. He asked the family to lay their flowers onto the casket. Beautiful roses dropped onto the lid, some pink, some a perfect white. I wanted to stare at the white flowers, but we, the more distant relatives, we went back to our cars to give the family a moment with their matriarch before she went into the ground.
Why aren't we carrying her? Why aren't we carrying her festooned casket down the street, bells ringing, people chanting, ourselves dressed in our brightest colors, why aren't we putting her on a funeral pyre, why aren't we dancing to reach the gods and ask them to receive her? Why haven't we put food in her casket? Why aren't our bodies painted -- why do we have no song?
I wondered in the car on the way to the cemetery -- how do I require dancing at my funeral?
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