Upon completion of the chapter fourteen of the book of John, the preacher closed his Bible, and continued. He didn't speak for very long, so I remember the gist of what he said that day. If I miss a few of his words, I'm sure you'll understand.
"Martha Jane Smith O'Halloran entered this world on January 7, 1884, and passed from this life into the next one on December 24, 1956. She wrote her own sermon as she lived her life, just as each of us do. Martha was the mother of seven children, five of whom survived childbirth. She was the grandmother of twelve children. (I looked around to see if any of them had by chance come to the funeral, but could see no indicator that they had.) Martha was the beloved wife of Shane Robert O'Halloran, and will be sorely missed by him. She has gone on to her reward, whatever it is. Shane shared with me that he has hopes that she finally accepted Christ as she lay dying, but is not sure. We can only hope. How about each of you? Are you prepared to draw a final breath? If not, there is no better time than now, because sooner or later, your time will come."
He asked if anyone else would like to speak, and when no one did, he led us all in a song, "It is Well With My Soul." Then he sat down and the funeral director came up and closed the casket, fastening it down with the clamps or screws, and they prepared to carry the body out of the church. We all got up and followed, out into the graveyard that was at the side of the church.
This was the first time we had ever been present when anyone was buried, and it was a new and scary experience for us, especially little Marie. She was holding my hand tightly, and I could feel her shaking.
Looking up at me, she whispered, "Are they putting Grandma in the dark hole?"
"Yes, but she is not in her body. She is not feeling anything."
"I don't understand, Zebbie. Where is she?"
"She is gone. She is not living anymore. We'll talk about it later, okay? I'll try to explain it all to you then. Now, no more talking right now. We have to be quiet."
I looked over at Rosie, standing with her new friend, Arlissa. Arlissa had a strange look on her face. Was that a tear sliding down her face? Why?
Looking then at Grandda, standing so alone, I felt such great empathy for him, wondering what he was going to do now with her gone. He loved her, in spite of what she had done. I know he felt a great responsibility, too, for her behavior. He would have time to contemplate his part in the way he had contributed to her mistreatment of her family.
I tuned back in then to what was going on. The pastor was speaking the words that one hears so often at funerals, about ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. Then we sang "Just As I Am" and turned to go. The preacher shook Grandda's hand and told him to call if he needed him, then turning to each of us, he said goodbye and left.
The assembly of people just kind of broke apart and we went our separate ways in small groups. I could see that Arlissa was going to come back with us.
I walked over to her and asked did she have any brothers or sisters, and she said, "No, I'm the only one. My ma died when I was born."
That explained the fact that she lived with her Grandma. But I wondered about her father. Where was he? Trying to be polite, I didn't ask the question, but boy, I really wanted to. She just smiled at me and turned back to Rosie.
We went back to the house, and got ready for lunch.
(To be continued)