It was a testament to the deceased that so many people came to the funeral. The whole town had turned out and Rachael wondered if they had enough food at home to feed everyone when they came back to gossip and gorge themselves. A small part of her realized that most of the people were truly sad to see him go and would bring their own contributions to the gathering but she was feeling uncharitable. All she could think of was that grandda was dead and that grandmother’s heart was breaking. So was her own.
Her eyes felt dry and tight but she looked up across the landscape to the horizon. They wouldn’t see her mourn. She would do that later, in private. If she dissolved into tears now she was afraid she might never recover and she couldn’t let everyone see her like that. Wouldn’t. They had a reputation to maintain. So she let her anger overcome her misery and glared at someone who had giggled a little too loudly.
Sam shifted next to her and she could feel her mother’s arm go around him. Mother gave him a squeeze then her hand found the crook of Rachael’s elbow and latched on as if the connection would give her comfort. It didn’t. Rachael still felt miserable and she wanted to shake her mother’s hand off but knew that wouldn’t be seemly. It wasn’t long before the minister finished reading and closed the bible and her mother’s burning grasp was gone leaving her feeling even more cold and empty.
Her family shifted, Little (brother) held up the bucket he had carefully carted from the farm. Da had come in with the bucket before they had left and glanced at grandmother a little pleadingly. “He would want some soil from the farm.” Grannie had nearly broken down then. It was only a supreme effort of will that she had blinked back the tears and stopped the shuddering. She even managed a thank you and a twisted sort of smile that had made Rachael’s heart jump into her throat and try to choke her.
Each family member took a handful of the soil from their farm until only Rachael was left. The soil was cold and she almost gasped. She hadn’t been expecting that. Still her fingers curled around it and she lifted her hand out, dirt slipping from between her fingers. Grannie stepped forward, not looking at anything but the hole at her feet. The soil trickled from her fingers then turning, she broke through the circle and walked away, head high.
Rachael heard some gasps and a few murmured whispers. “Shocking.” She heard one person say and her cheeks burned. She wished she knew who it was, they would find out what shocking was if she had anything to say about it. Her father sighed and looked at the crowd pleading for their understanding. He dropped his handful quickly then followed Grannie out of the graveyard. Mother marshaled the boys, letting them drop their handfuls together then poured her own in. “We’ll miss you,” she whispered then taking Sam by the arm followed father. Rachael was the only one left.
Deliberately she stepped forward to the edge of the grave and raised her arm out in front of her, but instead of opening her hand to let the soil fall she looked at the crowd. She met the eyes of each person. Finally when each of them had looked away from her gaze she opened her hand and let the contents fall. She had held it so tight it didn’t trickle with a pitter patter like her brother’s had, but fell in a chunk with a thunk that made her flush. Sorry granda she thought, though she couldn’t look down at him. She didn’t want to see the dirt on the pine coffin Da had made him. Abruptly she turned to follow her family. She felt the eyes of the villagers on her back and she kept her head high as she marched to their wagon.