The vicar is an old friend of your mother. You don’t like him. When I ask why you say, “He didn’t give me an orange when I was little.” The orange represents the world; the candle is Jesus, “The Light of the World.” The toothpicks with sweets on them are the four seasons (of course). I have so many questions but I don’t ask, lest I burst into flames. “I like the liquorice all-sorts,” you say, as you pop one in your mouth.
I’ve always had a stutter, though I’ve learnt to control it over time. Whenever I got stuck on a word as a kid I would pretend I’d forgotten what I was about to say. Then later, as an adult, I discovered that shouting FUCK! mid-sentence actually helped. Now as I stand, waiting to say my wedding vows, I’m painfully aware those strategies aren’t going to work. Then you walk into the church, and when you reach me you hold my hand. I’m not sure this is allowed—if it’s somehow not showing the appropriate amount of reverence—but we stay this way throughout the service, and when the time comes, I speak.
The day of your grandmother’s funeral, we meet at her house. A glass of water still sits on the nightstand in her bedroom and it makes you cry. I think of her placing the glass there, as I think of the words we’ll hear today: in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. I guess we all need a little faith, otherwise how would we ever do anything as terrifying as speaking to a pretty girl, or lying down to sleep every night?
I help carry your grandmother’s coffin. It’s trickier than it looks, especially as your uncle is six inches taller than I am on the opposite side. When we set her down, I notice my suit jacket is covered in sawdust from the bottom of the box. I try to brush it off without being too obvious. You can’t stop giggling, because you know I had my suit dry-cleaned yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve seen you laugh in weeks, and I laugh with you, quietly. I tried my best to look smart for Granny, and now I can’t get rid of the damn coffin dust.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower