Amber felt bewildered and gazed around the room as the minister’s voice droned on and on. Her thoughts wandered to happier days with Gran and Mrs. Hobbs. The little white cottage in the village of Willow felt empty since Gran’s passing, even though friends, relatives, and neighbours stopped in every day to give their condolences.
Amber glanced across the aisle when she heard the tap, tap of Great Aunt Jo’s cane on the wooden floor. She was Gran’s younger sister and she lived in the city. Amber gripped the seat of her pew so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Great Aunt Jo wore an old fashioned black dress. A black veil covered her face giving her a mysterious look. She hadn’t visited for a long time but wrote twice a year. Great Aunt Jo dabbed her eyes with a crumpled, lace-edged hankie.
Yesterday Great Aunt Jo had criticised Amber for not crying and had said it wasn’t natural. Because of this Amber had sobbed silently into her pillow last night. It had been Gran, Mrs. Hobbs and Amber most of the time. Great Aunt Jo’s visits had usually ended poorly, with Great Aunt Jo leaving in a huff. At these times, Amber had felt relieved because peace was restored in their lives.
Amber’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the organ and of shuffling feet as everyone stood up for the final hymn, How Great Thou Art. It was one of Gran’s favourites. She stiffened as her uncle and cousins shouldered the coffin and marched with it down the aisle towards the door. A few minutes later, she followed her family out of the church. Outside, the coffin was placed in a black hearse and everyone drifted to waiting vehicles.
Threatening clouds formed overhead as Amber watched the coffin being lowered into the ground. She clenched her hands until her fingernails dug into her palms. She hung her head and shivered. What now? Her life had been turned upside down in a few short days.
Amber followed the others as they cast clumps of earth and roses on the coffin. Tears filled her eyes as she stumbled along. Rain splattered on the ground making circles in the dust. Amber stumbled and almost fell as tears blurred her vision, but someone grabbed her arm and steadied her.
Great Aunt Jo, her cane gripped with her gnarled fingers, gave Amber a stern look from under her veil. “Don’t make a public spectacle of yourself,” she said.
Tears poured down Amber’s cheeks as she looked up at Great Aunt Jo. How could she be so judgemental? Great Aunt Jo had sniffled and dabbed her eyes all the way through the service. Now she smiled and spoke to everyone as if nothing had happened.
Then a gentle hand touched Amber’s shoulder. She looked up to see Uncle Mathew standing beside her with a kind twinkle in his blue eyes. “Let’s go to the house. Tomorrow is a fresh day,” he said. He put his arm around Amber’s shoulders as they walked towards the car.