It’s a perfect kind of night for a funeral. It’s dark and quiet, no wind. A chill in the air, but nothing a car coat won’t stave off.
My husband, son, and I make our way a mile down the hill and the bluff stairs, back through a quiet neighborhood along a canal, under a bridge into a wooded area my children are now calling Chu’s Crick. With us: our dog, cheerfully taking his favorite walk of the day. Our kitty Herbert Pocket, whisking alongside, and then ahead. Brave and proud. Nels carries a flashlight; my husband, a shovel. I follow last with a cigar box. Inside: a nubbly bit of soft cotton fabric swaddling four tiny babies, their little mouths peeking open to nurse, which they never will. Lucky, who was born without breath. Sardine, who passed soon after. Chu and Anchovy. Anchovy was the strongest. The little blonde head I held close, and so carefully.
They are silent, and hold no warmth, but they are still soft, their limbs loose. Their weight in the little box is somber. They are sharing sleep.
The night lights are orange, burning in the midnight deep, a senseless flame. The woods are foreboding enough I would not venture there without company. On the path, with my family, I am safe. The earth is soft with spring promise. Water trickles through the loden banks, icy and careless of my feelings.
Nels finds us a sturdy tree. It is good soil. My husband digs deep, very deep. I read a small eulogy.
It is harder than I make it sound.
It only takes a moment to fill the grave. My son collects his hands in a prayer, summoning us to be silent. Then he walks into the wood and finds a green leafy branch, plants it in the earth. “There,” he says grimly. I put my arms around him. What a birthday present!
We are walking back. A funeral in the night, it is good for being alone with your thoughts.
I feel terrible leaving those littles in the cold earth. There is no comfort for me as I climb the mute steps back up the hill.