The Burial

"We carried her out then
with the strong chorus of farm folk
resounding 'How Great Thou Art,'
carried her from the little country church
where she prayed and served
for forty-nine years,
where she fried chicken and baked pies
for parish dinners, sewed garments for the poor,
cleaned pews, washed linens
and made Jell-O salads for funeral dinners.
The burial entourage walked behind her,
passed a lonely, vacant building
that schooled her eight children,
where she stood up to nuns who went
beyond the boundaries of discipline
and bore the scalding words
of an alcoholic pastor's false judgments,
yet remained strong and stalwart in a faith
that might easily have crumbled for others
in similar circumstance.

Onward we walked to the cemetery
where a considerable number of tombstones
bore her husband's last name but not one
of her own ancestry. We stood
silently at the gravesite, each mourner's sorrow
bearing the certainty of her death. As the
pastor uttered the last prayer a lone bird,
a robin perhaps, warbled a sparkling song
of commencement. (Did it sing for you, my mother?
And was the soft, gentle breeze sweeping
across our faces a final farewell from you?)

I lifted my eyes beyond the flower-laden casket
to the freshly planted fields beyond,
looked across the flat mile or so to the tall evergreens
marking the front lawn of the family farm.
In that brief moment I glimpsed
the wholeness of life's quickly erased journey,
and marveled at its simplicity."