It wasn't the day but the detail. A young man quietly wept into his shirt, covering his face, an older one finding it hard to focus on the road ahead. As the funeral car had pulled away from the hospital the night-shift doctor had come running to pay his respects. The weather unseasonably warm for October, the body, a mother and grandmother peacefully laid out to rest in a room where people obviously cared. A friend from her younger days silently cried and each there, in turn, stood and whispered a prayer, burning incense as they rang a small bell to let the gods know they would like them to listen.
The priest chanting and the detail becoming more vivid. There were two candles, one dancing in a draft from somewhere, the second standing still, a cobweb under a chair in a corner, people slowly folding their prayer beads. And then the helpers from her care home arrived, not one as a representative, but nine who had known her. Each in their everyday clothes, sandals and pens in pockets but they stood one by one and said their own silent prayer, wishing her spirit well on its journey.
The gathering placed flowers and then photographs into the coffin, then mementos from her life, chocolate, the last thing she'd been able to eat, a toy rabbit that had kept her company in the months since her stroke. The dogs sat quietly in the corner and the daughter adjusted her headband and painted on lip-gloss. It has been more than thirty years since she saw her husband and she wanted her to look her best. Then we all held the cover as we finally closed the coffin.
The cremation took an hour, the priest staying until the fires were started. And when it was over, the remains of the skeleton lay there on the sand and we picked up the bones and placed them in the urn. The groundsman, pausing to pray as he opened the family grave, and stepping down he placed the container alongside the remains of her husband. It was a perfect day, the people who cared were there, and many we didn't know came to say goodbye. And her daughter slept that night, the first time in a long time.
|Chiyoko Yoshida 1940 - 2015|