Monday, August 18, 2014
The funeral home’s lush brown carpet captured our six footsteps until the door creaked. Four heels clicked and two soles squeaked on the greenish-gray linoleum squares in the room protected by the windowless door. Closed to public view were gleaming silver sinks, water sprayers and metal knives and stainless steel counters, fixed and rolling. Our lips remained pressed silent.
“Did I make a good choice?” my brother asked, his words light enough to drop to the floor within six feet.
“Dad would be pleased," I whispered. There was nothing else for me to say. To fulfill my Dad’s request, the gray cardboard coffin that speckled like a Broadway Play flat arrived via special delivery. He had made us all promise that what had been ordered for Mother would be good enough for him.
The special cremation coffin number three on his list. He made us promise two other things: one, no embalming; two, no official service or obituary. While we unanimously didn’t agree with his reasoning, he presented a simple truth. He’d not been born in this country and it contained no record of his birth so he deemed it fitting and proper that no public record of his death need be created. Dad said that something with no beginning also lacked an end. My brain cells sprouted no effective rebuttal. My brother and sister agreed Dad lived his life in his manner. There were neither roofs nor walls on his thoughts. His body would join them on the wind.
My brother had argued with Dad stating that the government owed him a flag, a stars and stripes for his military service. If so, Dad replied to us all, you decide who keeps it. Better I not be planted in the ground, he said, beneath cloth, which in a season becomes tattered and torn.
The funeral director lowered the white sheet to my Dad’s shoulders. We all gasped. This was not our Dad. The brown wavy hair could have been his, but this hollow face of a man—never!
The eyes we saw were clouded as if Dad’s cataracts had regrown across his artificially implanted lenses. His cheeks were sunken, water drops collected in the crevices as if the sun had ducked behind a cloud and obscured the drying rays. The bluish hint of death knocked from afar as if the funeral director had locked it into the rear of the hearse parked outside.
My sister had rifled Dad’s closet for a suit and the blackness hung draped across her arm.
“We don’t really don’t need clothes if there’s to be no viewing,” the funeral director said. “Have you changed your mind?”
“No,” I whispered.
“Then I’ll give you all a few moments to say good-bye. The documents are all ready and the plane leaves this afternoon.”
His words of “I miss Mother,” swirled in my head. I did, too. Now, I’d miss them both.