"This is Mr. Grow," Mom says, gesturing to the man standing beside her. He smiles and nods. "This is Daniel, and Janae..." Mom runs through the list as we all shake his hand.
"It's nice to meet you all," Mr. Grow says. He's wearing black slacks, a coat, and a red tie. Glasses are set back firmly on his nose.
"Where are the Stroms?" Caleb asks, looking around.
"They're coming up," Andrew says, pointing. Their vehicle pulls to a stop about five yards away.
"Take all the time you need," Mr. Grow says. "We're in no rush."
I notice a young man sitting on a tree behind Mr. Grow. He stands and approaches us. "I'm Jonathan." He says with a smile.
"Hi Jonathan." Mom says, returning the smile. "We won't go through all the names again, but we're all Eddy's, so you can just say 'Eddy'."
Jonathan nods, his eyes wandering over our group. "Well, God bless you guys."
Tears prick my eyes as I make my way over to the Stroms. Ariel comes up to me and wraps her arms around me. I lay my head on my shoulder and close my eyes against the flow of tears. This can't be real...
"We brought Stephen along," Mrs. Strom says. "But he's just going to stay in the car-"
"Oh, he can come out." Mom says. "C'mon out, Stephen! It's fine." She calls.
Stephen smiles and climbs out of the car. As a group, we all begin to walk over to the gravesite. My throat constricts as I see the hole, and the huge mound of dirt that sits near it.
Dad, Andrew, Caleb, Mr. Strom, Stephen, and a few others hefted the coffin out of the back of a van. It's a metallic grey-blue with silver handles around the lower edge. A strange fear fills me at the thought.
Josh's body is in there.
I feel a familiar coldness wrap around me as they set the coffin on the nylon ropes to be lowered. Josh's body is in there. And they're going to put him in a hole and cover him with dirt. The thought repulses me. I know that his mortal body is not what matters, but it's all I can think about.
Ariel and I stand side-by-side, our arms around each other. I watch dully as they lower the casket, tears rolling down my face. I feel distant; cold. Depressed. Nothing seems to matter anymore - nothing but the fact that my brother died, and I didn't get to say goodbye.
The casket reaches the bottom and they pull out the ropes. Mr. Grow comes up holding two shovels.
"If any of you would like to shovel in some dirt...?" He holds them out. After a moments hesitation, Dad takes one, and Caleb the other. They walk over to the dirt mound and stuck the shovels in. Caleb was the first to drop his load into the pit.
I literally cringe at the sound of the rocks and lumps of dirt landing on the coffin.
The sound hurts like a physical wound. It deepens the darkness I feel, and intensifies the ache in my heart.
Josh is dead.
I didn't get to say goodbye.
I made so many mistakes with him.
I didn't say "I love you".
I hate who I am.
The last thought remains in my mind. Actually, it has been in my mind a lot lately.
Andrew and Dad trade off. After a few shovelfuls, they stop. A backhoe comes up and finishes the job.
We all put our arms around each other and pray. I find myself shaking. I'm scared. Scared of Josh being gone, scared of the future, scared of the darkness I find in myself. The dark, possessing thoughts and feelings that consume my mind.
It's done. As we break up and begin to walk away, I look back once more at the smooth dirt that covers Josh's body. I feel sick as I finally turn away.
I can't do this... how can I do this? How can I live without him? I try to imagine life with his smile, his voice, his laugh, but find it impossible.
As we drive away, my mind is still in the cemetery - looking into that dark box in which Josh lies. I love you so much, Joshua. I can't wait to see you again.