Two women dressed in white, head to toe, calm the flailing arms and support the limp body as they escort the older woman outside.
With effort they urge her across the yard under a stalwart oak where there are chairs, a cooler of ice housing soft drinks, and a long table with a blanket and several pillows. Funerals often call for going the extra mile, like now.
Miss Lucie, a temporary red head, snatches the wig from her head and tosses it onto the table.
“I’m tired of pretending!”
Her own white hair stands high and wooly as testimony.
The ushers, nod in Godly understanding and holy agreement. They fan and supply Kleenex for her copious tears and snotty nose. Grieving is not pretty.
“Sister Lucie, it gon’ be alright. The Lord, He is good. Surely you know that by now. It gon’ be alright. You’ll see.”
Without comment, Miss Lucie starts rocking and humming. The rickety chair provides background. Low guttural sounds of deep moaning and pain issue forth and ride the breeze, courtesy of the oak. Touched, the ushers begin their songs, deep and melodic, rhythmic and soul searching. Rock of Ages cleft for me. Keep me near the Cross. This is a rough side of the mountain. They forget about the funeral inside Church of God in Christ, so close to the Master each feels.
Eventually, Miss Lucie, revived, indicates that she is ready to go back inside. She thinks: It is the funeral of my aunt. The one I have known all my life. The one who lived with us in the city years ago. The one I trusted for many years until I discovered the truth. The one who identified my biological father -the family secret. The one who told me there was no Santa Claus, showed me all my gifts and ruined an innocent Christmas morning. The one who labeled me “a shit head.” The one who stole the land. My mother’s sister. But no matter what she did, I should honor her going home celebration.
The ushers, unaware of her inner dialogue, feel assured that Miss Lucie is peaceful now. They straighten her clothes, place the wig on her head, and help as she powders her nose, using the broken mirror propped on the west side of the tree.
Once inside, the grieving woman appears relaxed throughout the glowing sermon about the life of her aunt as described by others but unknown to her. And when it is time to view the remains, she looks in the direction of the ushers who press their lips together and nod, simultaneously, as though they receive authority from on high.
As Miss Lucie stands before the open casket, a serene smile playing across her parched lips, she is overtaken by the urge to speak. Resounding throughout the church is the strident sound of her last words.
“Kiss my black ass, you lying, cheating, thieving bitch!”