Paul took his place between his siblings, his eyes strangely dried. One by one they filed out of the church door, following their mother’s coffin like dutiful children. His four oldest brothers were the pallbearer, and his older sister Margaret was carrying in her black-clad arms their mother’s box of valuables that would be buried with her. Keeping his head down, he followed after them, his boots squelching in the mud. Behind him he could hear his younger sisters sobbing and the whispering voice of his brothers trying to comfort them, as well as the sympathetic murmurs of well-meaning friends and relatives.
Their little procession came to a stop at the site of burial, a little graveyard behind the church. The priest made his way towards the front with his little book of prayers. Paul’s father followed, stopping beside each of his children to clap their shoulders and murmur words of strength. They all nodded and lowered their heads, waiting for the priest to start his prayer. His soothing voice washed over them, recounting all the good deeds their mother had done. They joined in at the end, their voices soaring in the last prayer to their mother. The coffin was lowered, the box of treasures placed on top of the lid. One by one the fifteen children dropped in their bunch of white flowers, to be followed by their father with a single red rose. She was gone.
The little graveyard slowly emptied, with the last of the well-wishers nodding farewell to the grieving family. Paul’s father was standing frozen by the newly-filled grave, his eyes unmoving from the remains of his wife. The siblings took each other’s arms and moved back, giving him the minute of solitary. Margaret had given up on her calm mask, and was crying quietly into James’ chest, her greying hair showing from beneath the headdress. Finally their father returned, and motioned for each of the children to take their turn farewelling their mother. James stepped forward, his broad shoulders stiff.
Eventually it was Paul’s turn. He stood before his mother’s grave, his graceful hands intertwined. They were not the hands of a farmer’s child, but hands of a musician.Thank you Mother, for giving birth to me, for nurturing me. I hope you rest in peace.He couldn’t thank her for anything else. Not for encouraging and nurturing his creativity, for Josephine did that. Not for setting him up on a path to success, for Josephine did that. Not for mothering him, for Josephine did that.
Paul walked away then, ashamed at himself for not being able to give his mother the thanks that she would’ve wanted. His siblings were finished with their last farewells now, and all were heading back to their various homes. He stepped after his father, and headed for his childhood home.
Inside the cottage that he once called home, his wife was waiting for them with dinner. She had left the funeral with the well-wishers, leaving Paul with his immediate family. His father dropped his cloak in front of her, and turned to lock himself in the bedroom he used to share with his wife. Elizabeth picked up the cloak, and hung it carefully on the door. Paul balled his cloak in his arm, and told Elizabeth that he would be back in a few minutes. He needed some alone time in the room where he used to sleep. He needed some time in the room where his head was filled with visions.