The day had started out well enough. The sun was shining and the garden was ablaze with colour. Birds sang out from the trees and the lazy drone of bees flitting from flower to flower filled the air. It held the promise of a perfect summer's day and, while I cannot pretend I was happy, it filled me with an odd contentment that belied my other feelings.
I pottered around, distracting myself from my thoughts and memories but, as the time neared and the clouds rolled in, the fragile peace I had wrapped around me was increasingly disturbed as fragments of the past began to torment me. Friends and family were all around me, taking care of everything, gently supporting and helping me along. I should say that without them there I may not have made it at all.
As we left the first raindrops began to fall, fat droplets that thudded against the roof of the car and drenched everything in sight. We headed off slowly and our solemn little procession made its way towards the cemetery.
Ashes to Ashes
In the car there was no way to take my mind off what had happened and the memories crashed down on me with an almost physical force. Kissing my children goodbye as I left for work; getting to work early to finish off a report I'd been working on for the board meeting; the phone ringing; staring numbly as the words rang inside my head... accident... car... way to school...; the smashed glass by the side of the road; the distraught faces of my parents; the bodies in the morgue, faces uncovered for identification; the happy picture on my desk of a family torn apart in the blink of an eye. The weight of them crushed me into the seat, made it hard to breathe and only eased as the car pulled in through the gates and began to pass among the graves.
The convoy pulled up a short distance from where three fresh, green-covered mounds guarded equally fresh holes in the ground. I got out into the rain.
Dust to Dust
I stood looking at each of the coffins in turn, barely listening to the service as it went on around me. A ring of umbrellas surrounded my family, all black save the one carried by my young niece. I stood slightly apart and had left my umbrella at home, preferring instead to be completely exposed to the rain. Water ran down the back of my neck and seeped through my suit and I paid it no heed. It gave me the opportunity to weep privately but my eyes remained resolutely dry.
The chance came around and I tried to say a few words. My mind went blank and, unable to take my eyes from the loved ones laid out in front of me, the sounds died in the back of my throat. My brother-in-law stepped up alongside me and gently took the lead. Speaking in a quietly assured way, he said all the things I wanted to and more besides.
My wife and children were slowly lowered into the ground and I scattered a handful of earth over each of them. Everyone else did the same and then began to drift away, back to their cars and their lives and their families . Finally, I was left alone with mine.
Only then was I able to cry.