From time to time, life serves up moments,
Vignettes that crystallize in mind and memory.
Accrued, carried along. A mental photo album.
September Saturday, startlingly sunny.
Warm, golden autumn day.
The parking lot of a funeral home.
Nearby, a young family.
Little girl, perhaps four our five, dressed in her finest frills.
A granddaughter, perhaps?
Prancing and excited, not truly aware of what she has lost.
Bearded father, wearing a black suit and a team scarf.
On this canicular day.
That must be one of the sons.
The blessed cool of the air conditioning.
Sober. Still. Lowered voices.
Put your funeral face on.
The awkward ritual of murmured platitudes.
Signing the register.
The pen's cold hardness in my hand.
What to write? More platitudes.
Photographs, carefully scissor-cut and collaged.
Suggest the narrative and dimensions of a life. And yet.
Their papery flatness screams It’s all we have left.
Later, escape into the dazzling sunshine.
Relief. Respects paid.
We’ve all been there before, been under that dark shadow.
Today the shadow fell on somebody else.
And we were merely bit players.
Is it wrong to feel grateful?
Walk away, unfettered by grief – this time.
Move on to the rest of the day.
Leaving the parking lot,
Grief reaches out a claw.
Not so fast.
Look through the side window.
The man with the beard and the scarf.
Sitting on a patch of scrubby grass,
Beside the parking lot.
Knees clasped to chest.
Head in hands.
Sorrow cries out.
See me. Feel me.
I am everyone’s story.