I got to the funeral home early. I was there to pay respects to a man whose wife I once worked with. He died in a nursing home, God rest his soul.
As it happens, there were two visitations going on that day. And since I have the intelligence of a ripe summer squash, I found myself in the wrong place.
I knew this because the service was poorly attended. Which is also why I stayed.
The widow was mid-forties. She had tough skin, like someone had left her in the weather too long. Her kids were with her—one girl, one boy. Her face was waterlogged.
There was no casket. Only a table with photographs.
People in line said things like, “Time heals all wounds, honey.”
And this irks me.
Folks don't mean to use such ridiculous sentences at funerals. It's accidental. But they fire off corny phrases like buckshot just the same.
As a boy, my mama and I received a line of visitors just like this one. It was a morbid ordeal that
lasted for hours, days, years. It never seemed to end.
In fact, sometimes I wonder if my adult life is nothing but a daydream some twelve-year-old boy's having in a funeral parlor. I wonder if maybe one day I'll awake, shaking hands with some fella pointing out how time can heal all wounds.
Anyway, I finally made it to the widow. She smiled, but not with her eyes, then she thanked me for coming. I smelled cigarettes on her breath. She didn't know me from Adam's beer-fridge, but she pretended to.
I hugged her scrawny body. Then, I told her something I've been waiting to say to a woman in her situation for a long time.
“You're stronger than you think you are, ma'am."
I didn't mean to tear up. But mid-sentence, I realized I was saying something just as ridiculous as the others.