Forlorn Amber Fielddale stood beside Mrs. Hobbs in the family pew. She watched as family and neighbors came down the aisle. Amber’s legs suddenly felt like jelly and she sat down with a thud. A shudder went through her, as her attention went from the black clad people to the oak coffin covered with white daisies and roses. Amber’s thoughts drifted to the night before. She had stood beside Aunt Anne in the funeral parlor as everyone gathered to say their goodbyes in private. The coffin had been open with Gran propped up against a white satin pillow surrounded by green satin. Gran had looked at peace and like she would pop up any second to say something. Amber shivered and bolted outside when Aunt Anne had asked her to kiss Gran one last time. The stars twinkled in the dark sky but one star was brighter than the others. Goosebumps formed on Amber’s arms as she folded them over her chest.
The rustle of Aunt Anne’s skirt, as she walked down the aisle, brought Amber’s mind back to the present. Amber and Gran hadn’t seen Aunt Anne for five years and there hadn’t been a letter from her for a long time. Now here she was dabbing her eyes with a rumpled handkerchief. Aunt Anne’s back was stiff and erect as she passed Amber with a scornful glance at the sad, forlorn but tearless girl sitting in the Fielddale pew. Aunt Anne was dressed in a dark grey pin stripped suit with a black velvet hat with a black veil concealing her dark brown eyes. Amber’s gaze wandered to where Uncle Mathew, Aunt Teresa and family stood. They had visited frequently and those were fun times.
Amber’s thoughts drifted again to the night before when she’d tossed and turned and drifted from one dream to another. She smiled as she remembered the dream where she’d danced in the meadow with Grandma. Last winter Grandma had been ill for several weeks and was rushed to the hospital On Amber’s last visit to the hospital Grandma had squeezed her hand gently before she drifted off to sleep. That night she had passed away and the following days were a blur.
Amber felt bewildered and gazed around the room as the minister’s voice droned on and on. Her thoughts drifted to happier days with Mrs. Hobbs and Grandma. The little cottage felt empty now even though friends and neighbors dropped in every day to give their condolences. The rustle of Aunt Mabel’s dress brought her back to the present for a moment. Amber glanced at Auntie Jo and Auntie Anna as they dabbed their eyes with crumpled lace edged hankies. Amber’s brow knit together into a frown as she watched. Her great aunts hadn’t visited for fifteen years and only wrote at Christmas. Now they made a show of their grief and criticized Amber for not crying. Amber had sobbed silently into her pillow last night. It had just been Mrs. Hobbs, Grandma and Amber all the time with neighbors dropping in to visit. Aunt Mabel had short visits but alway left in a huff and Amber felt relieved when she left because peace was restored. Amber’s thoughts were interrupted as everyone stood up for the final hymen, How Great Thou Art, one of Grandma’s favorites.
Amber stiffened as her uncles and cousins shouldered the coffin and marched down the aisle towards the door. In a few minutes she followed Aunt Mabel, Auntie Jo, Auntie Anna and Aunt Anne in single file down the aisle behind the coffin. Outside the coffin was placed in the black hearse and everyone drifted to waiting vehicles.
Black threatening clouds formed overhead as Amber watched the coffin being lowered in the ground. She clenched her hands until her fingernails dug into her palms. Amber hung her head and shivered as she watched in disbelief. What now? Her life had been turned upside down in a few short days. Amber followed the others as they dumped clumps of earth and roses on the coffin. Tears filled her eyes as she stumbled along. “Oh Grandma, don’t leave me.” They turned to leave as rain spattered on the ground leaving circles in the dust.
“Don’t make a public sceptical of yourself,” Aunt Mabel hissed.
Tears poured down Amber’s checks as she looked up at Aunt Mabel. She should talk. Aunt Mabel had been sniffing and dabbing her eyes all the way through the service. Now she was smiling and talking to everyone as if nothing had happened. How could she?
Then a gentle hand touched Amber’s shoulder and she looked up to see Uncle Mathew standing beside her with a gentle twinkle in his blue eyes. “Let’s go to the house. Tomorrow is a fresh day.” Uncle Mathew put his arm around Amber’s shoulders as they walked toward the car.