Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There, by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest…
Those were the words of the solemn hymn sung by those present in the church as the service began in Holy Ghost Temple.
The casket in which Glori’s body lay was at the side of the altar, with a number of wreaths around it. The parents had decided against a laying in state. The thought of having to continually witness people file past their daughter’s corpse was too much for them. They just wanted to have a quick send-off and be done with it.
Relatives, friends and sympathizers had filed past the casket, and tears had been shed. Silently and loudly.
None, however, pierced the soul as deeply as the wails of Mrs. Vanderpuye, whose wails forced the manliest of men to wipe away tears from their eyes as she rushed to the front of the altar, somehow hoping against hope that she could wake up the young lady in the coffin. Somehow wishing that just like the numerous times she had shaken her daughter and she stirred… maybe, just maybe, this would do the trick.
A futile wish, unfortunately. It wouldn’t work this time; Glori was never gonna wake up again.
Rawda had entered about a minute or two before the bereaved mother’s grief boiled over. She had tried her best to stay strong on her way to the church, but seeing Mrs. Vanderpuye scream with agony as she attempted to wake her late daughter broke any attempt at that. It was in the arms of her brother Samed that she bawled uncontrollably into as they took their seats. At that moment, the will to file past the open coffin was gone; the pain of knowing her dear friend lay lifeless there fell on her like a ton of bricks and shattered her totally.
It took about ten minutes for composure to be restored in the church before the casket was finally closed and the service began, although obviously, there were many who still shed tears, albeit silently.
A place of mourning. A place everyone will find themselves someday, but never a comfortable place to find yourself.
“Glori was an ambitious young woman. A young lady who undoubtedly had big dreams,” the priest spoke as he gave the solemn homily for the occasion. “I spoke with her many times, and if there’s anything I know, it’s that she wanted to make a major impact in this world and make her family proud.”
He took a moment to shut his eyes and let out a big sigh of sadness, then continued.
“My honest expectation was always that if I had to do something major with Glori at the center of it, it would be about a celebration of her first play, or first book. Her wedding. Dedication of her children. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that I’d have to conduct a funeral service for her, at this point in time. My constant prayer for her was that God would give her the strength to fulfill all those ambitions and desires within. But… somehow, that didn’t happen.”
His eyes on the people before him, clad in black and white, he could see hurt in its most tangible form. From the morose parents to the heartbroken siblings. Uncles, aunties and cousins with tear-stained faces. Friends and loved ones still finding it hard to believe. Life had really thrown them the nastiest of curveballs, no doubt.
“We’re all hurting as we sit here. Every one of us has lost a special person. Someone who brought joy and happiness to our lives in various ways, and this is difficult to take in. But in painful times like these, even though we don’t have the answers, we can lean on the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our afflictions. We have a Comforter who is always by our side, and is ready to help us in this dark period. We have the assurance of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who promised that He will be with us always, even unto the end of the age…”
A few hours had passed. The service was over, and those who had the strength to do so, were at the cemetery, where Glori was to be laid to rest.
Rawda was one of those, holding tightly to her brother as they had walked through the place that held many resting places for the departed. She had chills running down her spine as she noted different tombstones, with different ages on each of them.
Some of them, like her great-grandmother, had lived to a ripe old age and peacefully made their way out of earth into eternity. Others had checked out a little too early.
And a number of them were as young as her and Glori.
It really brought into perspective how fragile and temporary life is.
Indeed, as she and Samed walked though to where Glori’s coffin would be lowered, her brother murmured out loud words she knew would never get out of her head.
“How pitiful is the man whose purpose revolves around the planet of self, and how wretched is the fool who thinks storing up material goods is ultimate wealth.”
As they arrived at the spot where the coffin was to be laid, many of the mourners were already weeping before the priest could begin the final prayers. Doing his best to maintain his own composure, he stayed silent as others shushed and told the weeping ones to hold their tears as he offered the final prayers over her casket.
“God of the spirits and of all flesh, who have trampled death and annihilated the devil and given life to your world, may You Yourself, O Lord, grant to the soul of your deceased servant Glori Vanderpuye, rest in a place of light, a verdant place, a place of freshness, from where suffering, pain and cries are far removed…”
As the prayer ended and the pallbearers began to lower the coffin into the grave, the cries resumed, and they were a lot more hysterical than before. Seeing Glori finally being lowered into the grave was pretty much that horrid arrow striking their hearts to confirm that this was not a dream.
Glori Vanderpuye was dead.
Samed had not had it easy calming Rawda down the first time, but this was a whole other issue. Reality had hit her just as hard as the others, and she had not broken down seriously until now, so this was a major outpouring of grief.
“GLORIIII! GLORIIIIII!! NOOOO!!! OH GODDDDDD!!!! WHY? WHY DID YOU HAVE TO LEAVE US THIS WAY?? WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT YOU? GLLLOOOOORRRRIIIIIIII!!!!!”
Overwhelmed with grief, she screamed and wailed loudly, oblivious to the attempts of her brother to calm her down. Not even the efforts of other mourners could help. This was a hard moment, but no one else at that grave side was as inconsolable as her. Even Mrs. Vanderpuye tried unsuccessfully to calm her down; a testament to how broken she was at that point.
This was Rawda’s valley moment. The moment she truly came face to face with the terrible reality that she was never ever gonna see her friend again.
Seated at the dining table, in front of Leticia sat a blank foolscap sheet and a pen.
She simply sat there, her hands not even remotely motivated to rise and pick the pen to do the needful.
Thomas’ funeral was a few days away, and as expected, the tributes were needed for the publication of the brochure. According to the senior Mr. Dawson, aside her and his secondary school year group, everyone else had submitted theirs. She had promised to get to work on it as soon as possible.
So that evening, she said to herself it was time to get to work on it.
However, as she sat before the paper, that push needed to get to work just wasn’t there. Because she knew what was to appear on that paper was either going to be something that would be inappropriate for a funeral brochure, or something that would make her sick to her stomach to read.
How could she now lavish her late husband with the words of adoration she had planned to give him when he finally passed at the ripe old age of 89, when it was much earlier, and especially in the light of his scorn for her?
The thought of writing down what a wonderful and amazing husband he was now seemed repulsive. Why should she shower him with such accolades when it was nothing but a façade? Did he deserve such lovely praises when his deepest thoughts about her were darker than she would have expected?
She sighed, looking at the paper. She would have loved nothing more than to vomit out her new feelings about him.
But would that be appropriate for a funeral?
Even as she flirted with the idea, she knew the answer was a no. It most certainly would not.
She sighed again as she picked up the pen and tapped it against the table.
“Well, I guess I gotta get it done…”
That’s one funeral down. Time to witness Thomas’ own…