On an August morning that threatens rain,
we are gathered here in the delicate pain of hope.
The notes of old hymns fill the spaces
between friends and strangers
as the organist preludes eulogy and prayers.
The high dome of the sanctuary arches over curving balconies.
Oak pews with hymnals and Bibles in the racks
slope from back to front toward the oak casket
nested against the raised platform and pulpit,
a silent harmony of hardwood
and hand-rubbed finish
resonating below the circular centerpiece high above:
eight main radials of stained glass
framed by inlaid maple and walnut.
I never knew this woman
except through patterned images reflected
in children and grandchildren.
The minister reads a fine bouquet of their good memories:
rides and food, meals and moments,
a lifetime of loving family and friends,
intentional sharing and caring,
an unaltered path of dignity and devotion.
After the final prayer,
we file down the stairs to greet the ones we know,
to convey what concern we may.
In between the hugs and handshakes,
the smiles and nods,
I find a table of pictures.
In one, framed from behind her,
Susie sits at a dresser,
mirrored image of an alluring young woman
in a long formal dress,
dark hair sensuously suspended barely above the shoulders,
her head tilted toward the earring she is clipping.
On the opposite end of the table,
one of her with her husband.
Even in her seventies and fully gray,
she still looked like an actress:
slender and elegant,
a radiant smile and a timeless sense of grace
that will yet live on
in those who bear her image and more—
lives like hers
that share an even greater reflection.