Rain drums onto the roof of the car, throws itself against the windows, wrestles with the windshield wipers. My left-hand braces against the car door, the top of my head hitting the ceiling as Rich jerks the wheel abruptly to miss yet another rut in the narrow dirt road.
I’m sorry ladies, he says, his brows furrowed in the rearview. I can’t seem to avoid them out here and the rain isn’t helping.
I try to give him a smile, but I’ve spent them all at the little Baptist Church at the foot of the hill we’re now climbing.
I don’t mind the jostling. The motion assures me that no matter how still everything feels inside myself, reality will continue to propel, to push. I turn to look at my grandmother, squeeze her too-cold hand. She presses mine back, her thumb grazing the top of my hand, her eyes shut tight. Her lids look disturbingly purple in the greyish-green ambiance created by the rain clouds, her black fedora a harsh statement of grief against her silvery shoulderlength hair.
Brake lights up ahead indicate we’ve arrived.
A burst of cold air and noise rush into the car as Rich slips outside.
Silence again as the door closes.
Seconds later he’s at my door with an umbrella and I hear Sam’s deep voice through the door on my grandmother’s side. He stoops and gives me a wink as he takes my grandmother’s hand, studies her. He looks worried. I think Sam looks old today, but so does everyone.
I clutch Rich’s arm, thankful for the mud boots he insisted we wear as the ground tries to suck me into its chocolaty folds.
We plod toward the tent; garish, blue, and plastic. I wonder if funeral parties in larger towns had to endure the cheap, plastic accoutrements of death as we did, or if they got to choose from more tasteful options.
Sam shakes the rain from his umbrella and his trench and my grandmother shakes the pastor’s hand, hugs my mom and dad, reaches for me.
Livy angel, come sit with me.
I teeter on the plastic grass rug with the rectangular-sized cutout and follow her to our seats. My eyes skitter away from the void beneath the mahogany casket only feet away from our knees. The casket looks like something my grandfather would have chosen—dark panels like the walls of one of his bar and grills. But he hadn’t had the time to choose what he wanted.
The rain is painfully loud inside the tent. Drilling, drilling, drilling. My ears don’t register the pastor’s voice until I see his lips move, my grandmother nodding her head beside me.
Nathan Weiss was a man who lived with no regrets and died with none, the pastor says, his eyes shining with fervor. In Romans, it says: None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords. He pauses here and looks at my grandmother and then at me. Nathan Weiss did everything in this life with others in mind. He did everything in his power to care for those people and things that could not take care of themselves. He cared about Tomahawk Hill and everyone in it…
I scowl into my lap, feeling the lump of anger and grief rise in my throat as tears stream down my cheeks.
Not that anyone around here truly understood or appreciated what my grandfather had tried to do for them. I didn’t have enough fingers to count the number of times the town had vetoed the improvements and ideas my grandfather had proposed. Choices that could have pointed Tomahawk Hill toward life, rather than extinction. Choices, that might have saved my grandfather’s life!
Instead, Nathan Weiss’s broken body is being buried on a hilltop overlooking the town that had broken his heart, doomed to watch it decay into eternity.