A dozen chairs were lined up in front of the open grave. A dozen people were ushered to the chairs. The first two people were an elderly couple. The next two people were a middle-aged couple and beside them was a young boy. Another couple filled the next two seats with a teen boy and girl. Lastly, a middle-aged woman, Sondra, and two teen sisters, Lily and Bethany, sat in the final three chairs.
A pastor began reading from Scripture as the crowd of people listened. When he finished reading, a group of military men shot off their guns at their officer’s command. When the gunshots faded away, a man stepped forward and solemnly played Taps on his trumpet.
Lily and Bethany stared at the casket through blurred vision. Across the casket, an American flag was draped. Within the casket was their father. Their father had sacrificed his own life for his country. He had died while in combat over in Iraq. The girls’ hearts were filled with bitter agony as they thought of their father’s selfless death.
Their mother slipped an arm around each girl, willing herself to be strong for her daughters. Tears dripped down her face as she thought of her husband. In a soft voice she whispered to her girls. “He’s in a better place….he’s in a better place.”
The girls sniffed in reply.
Sondra’s heart was breaking for the loss of her husband but also for the loss of their girls’ father. She knew they were dealing with their own huge amount of grief.
Finally, the graveside service was over. Only the first dozen people remained at the grave. The funeral director spoke to Sondra for a few minutes before he stepped away from the scene, giving the family privacy.
The family of the deceased army sergeant sat together mutely, staring at the casket holding their beloved family member. They stood and watched as the men slowly lowered the casket into the grave.
Sondra couldn’t hold it together any longer as she watched the casket carrying her husband disappear into the ground. A sob sprang out of her mouth and the tears began flowing again.
The elderly couple quickly moved to comfort Sondra. Lily and Bethany stood beside each other watching their mother. Bethany couldn’t take it anymore.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen! He was supposed to come home just like he always did. He was going to retire…we were going to travel the States and do all kinds of fun things together. He promised!” Bethany began sobbing.
Lily brushed back her own tears as she hugged her sister close. “I know…I know…”
“It isn’t fair,” Bethany cried.
“Yes but, we need to remember,” Lily began through her own tears, “that God’s ways are higher than our ways. He knows what was best for Dad. I think God loved Dad so much, that he didn’t want Dad to have to stay here on earth anymore. He wanted Dad to go and enjoy Heaven.”
“I miss him so much!”
“I miss him too….but we’ll be together again soon. Meanwhile, Dad can just help God build our mansions.”
Bethany stopped crying, “Dad always talked about his mansion up in Heaven. He couldn’t wait to see it.”
“And now, he is up there gazing at his mansion right now.”
“I bet he’s enjoying that.”
“I know he is.”
Anna dropped down on the living room chair, dissolving into a fit of laughter. Across from her, her friend Jamie did the same.
“Oh, you really need to stop it!” Anna exclaimed at last.
Jamie gave her a mischievous grin, “ Boy howdy, your face sure is red. Don't you think you should stop laughing?” Jamie asked in a perfect Heath Barkley accent, sending her friend into another fit of laughter.
Just then the doorbell rang and Anna hurriedly sat up, making a desperate attempt to smother her laughter before she hurried to see who was at the door.
Glancing through the window, her heart suddenly skipped a beat and all sign of laughter drained from her face.
Jamie, noticing her frightened look, hurried over, “What is it?” One glance out the window revealed two men standing there, both in full military uniform.
Jamie gave her friend a quizzical look, “I know you told me your father was deployed, are one of those men him?”
Anna shook her head, “I’ve never seen either of them before. And. . .one of them is a chaplain.”
“Shouldn’t you answer the door?”
Anna turned to her friend, “Oh, Jamie I can’t! Can you answer it. . .please?”
“Your mother isn’t back yet?”
Anna shook her head.
Jamie shrugged her shoulders, “Alright,” she reached for the door handle and unlocked it, “Can I help you, sirs?”
“We’re looking for a Mrs. Mary Williams. Is she here?” The tallest of the two men asked.
Jamie shook her head, “She went to the store but, oh, there she is.” She pointed to the small silver car that had just pulled up in the driveway. Both men turned and started down the steps and Mrs. Anthony opened the car door and hurried toward them. Anna came and stood next to Jamie in the doorway.
“You’re Mrs.Williams?” They heard the same man addressed her and both of them men removed their hats.
“Yes, yes I am. Has something happened to Anthony?” Mrs. Williams voice betrayed the worry she felt.
The chaplain put his hands on her shoulders to steady her, “Mrs. Williams, there’s no easy way to say this. You’re husband, Anthony sustained a wound in a battle over a week ago. He didn’t make it.”
Mrs. Williams’s hand flew to her mouth, “Anthony, no! Please, no!” She wavered as though she was about to fall and the chaplain put his arm around her to steady her. She began sobbing, leaning heavily on him.
Anna felt as though she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. How is it possible? Daddy’s gone! For a horrible second she couldn’t feel anything, it was as though she had been numbed to any feeling, good or bad. Then Jamie reached over and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, “I’m so, so sorry, Anna.”
And at that, the tears came. Daddy won't come back. Ever. There would be no more waiting for his letters, no more feeling his strong arms go around her as they met him at the airport for the first time in months, no more hearing his laugh as he swung her around. He’s gone. I’ll never see him again. She leaned against Jamie suddenly not being able to hold herself up as the tears splashed down her cheeks. Jamie wrapped her arms around her friend as two tears rolled down her own cheeks. She had never met Anna’s father, but she knew he was a good man, a good father, and her heart hurt for her friend. God, please help me to be more grateful for my own Dad. Please, never let me take him being here for granted again.
Congratulations girls! Y'all are awesome writers!!! There will be a post tomorrow with a question and some excerpts from "Being Little Sister". :D
See ya around!