11 months ago


Selected Writings & Artwork by Harriett Copeland Lillard

The Funeral

The Funeral 79

The Funeral She sat thinking of all those past old events as she waited. Waited, weighted – it seemed as if she had done the former and felt the latter for most of the past twenty years. She instinctively sensed she had reached some giant interchange in her life. She could continue on the road she had set for herself almost twenty years ago, or she could take one of the many exits. The main road lay ahead, straight and safe, leading to a known destination; it required no decisions, no choices, no detours. A cold chill washed over her, raising the hair on the back of her neck and arms as the end of the road came into view. The slow cortège of hearse, limousines, and cars snaked its way up the hill and under the wrought iron arches of the cemetery. She had made this trip many times following the bodies of friends and family. But this time they were following her. Their destination was her open grave, the dirt pulled high on one side, covered with green rugs of artificial grass. The heavy scent of funeral flowers filled the air. The January wind whipped the scalloped edges. Oh God, she hadn’t wanted to die in the winter – not when the earth was cold and barren. Her children with their children filled the folding chairs at the end of the grave, and tight groups of people gathered behind them, standing close together for warmth. After the Lord’s Prayer, they began to break apart, embracing and shaking hands and murmuring the soft eulogies always heard on such occasions. “She was such a good wife, such a devoted mother.” “We will miss her.” “She was a good woman.” “And she was so talented.” It was the last comment that caught at her mind, because it contained an unspoken implication. The unspoken part was the thing that had begun to prick the edges of her consciousness, this was the part that told the whole story, “… so talented, but she never did anything with it.” She was frozen in her chair. She realized that she wasn’t breathing. My God, I’m paralyzed, she thought, I’m dying. She forced herself to breathe and then realized she couldn’t swallow. Hot panic gripped her. Get ahold of yourself! Think, think! How do you swallow? At last , she gagged and then involuntarily swallowed. Anxiety abated. She was back in the real world. She looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Of course no one had even looked her way. What made her think that anyone had noticed, she wondered? She had always had an overblown sense of self-importance. Back on the road again in her thoughts, albeit against her will, she began to think about the exits. How to get off? Where? When? If she got off, there was no getting back on. What would become of her? Would she lose everything? What could she afford to lose? Would she lose herself or would she gain herself? Perhaps that was the unspoken fear – gaining herself, knowing herself. What if she didn’t really like herself? Well, really she could get back on the main road, but that would be admitting failure. If she never got off, she could never fail, but she could never win either. It occurred to her that life should be more than unconditional surrender. ˜ 80