The shadows chased the failing light as the old man leveled the soil with his rake. Maybe it was old-fashioned, but he thought every grave should be dug by hand, even a pauper’s grave.
“And, but that great command o’ersways the order, she should in ground unsanctified have lodged.” The words weren’t his, but he thought someone should say something.
It had been a lingering and useless death. He didn’t think it was possible to die from indifference, from the cowardice of complacency, but here lay the proof.
He had never seen a service so sullen, so severe. The priest could do nothing to console the bereaved. The dream died in his breath as his voice trembled with vacant platitudes.
The mourners, what few there were, did not wail. The judge only mumbled and wrung his hands beneath his robe. The librarian bit her lip as the pain rose bitter in her throat. The senator stared at the floor and shook his head, “I should have known, I should have known.”
The eulogy was little more than an apathetic sigh. The old man hoped that when it was his time, his passing would be marked by more than empty pomp and funereal darkness. Someone should have read something from Dylan Thomas, something about ghostly echoes on paper and the hissing of spent lies. Someone should have knelt, bowed under the solemn weight of an elegy. Someone should have wept.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
By way of reply, an unkind rain began to fall. The raindrops stole the light from a pale moon, and shining like mercury, they washed the dirt from the modest headstone. The old man leaned on his rake like a centurion on a spear, and read the inscription one last time. He told himself he would always remember. Someone should remember.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
December 15, 1791 – October 26, 2001
“ Those Who Are Willing
To Sacrifice Freedom For Security