I sat alone in the back of the small, oh so exclusive suburban church and watched in the manner an outsider would watch. I was an outsider at the funeral where my beloved was laid to rest in the dark, cold impersonal soil. I had no part in the funeral services although my heart would be buried in the grave along side her.
I half listened to the unctuous, self-important preacher extol the virtues of a woman he had never met in his honeyed orator's voice that held no sincerity. As I sat there alone, my own thoughts ranged back over the past as I cried inside for that which might have been. I asked myself yet once again why was I even there?
Of course, I already knew the answer. I sat and endured that funeral to try to put finished to our relationship. To lose her a second time, this time to death was almost more than I could bear. We were both cheated out of so much. No matter how hard I cried inside, the tears never reached my eyes.
Her husband Charlie sat in the front pew and masked his non-grief well. He looked almost bored with the whole proceeding as he constantly checked his expensive wristwatch. Beside him sat a young woman who could only be Sarah's daughter. She looked so much like her mother.
I was emotionally numb as I stared and kept staring at the beautiful young woman as I waited for the rest of the droning service to grind to a stop. The last amen sounded and I got up to leave.
When I walked back outside, I blinked my eyes and waited until they became adjusted to the bright sunlight. It seemed so wrong that the sun shone bright and the birds sang so sweet on this day of such great sadness for me. I resented the ordinariness of it all.
It seemed it would have been more fitting for the day to be gloomy, dark clouds hanging heavy in the sky while no birds sang as the world mourned the passing of my beloved. However it didn't. In fact it seemed the world didn't even notice that she was gone, that my beloved was dead, now always and forever out of my reach.
"I win and you lose. She was still mine at the end." Charlie Potts, the not too sorrowful, newly made widower gloated over his imagined "winning." His nasal rasping voice grated on my ears as he added, "You think I didn't know about you and her? Hell boy, I had her watched almost from the time her daddy told her to marry me. You never did anything I could catch you at or you wouldn't be standing here right now, I promise you. My daddy would have seen to that."
"Charles, you are a fool," I told him with great contempt. "You never understood the first thing about Sarah or what she meant to me. Now you never will." I turned away and started down the steps.
I wanted to get away from this glittering rich man's house of worship where no God had ever dwelled and return back into my own quiet world of near anonymity. Now I fought back the tears I felt welling up in my eyes. I was damned if I'd let him see them or any other sign of the depth of my feelings.
"Don't you turn your back on me," he screeched as I went down the steps, to get away from him before I lost my temper. I was damned if I'd let the arrogant ass goad me into what I would consider a sacrilege, to fight on the church steps just minutes after her funeral services were done. He yelled foul names at my back and I kept walking away from him.
I walked the four miles back to my house, a study in abject misery. My eyes burned and my throat ached, as the hurt inside refused to go away. She was gone forever now and I'd have to get over it. Self-torture over what might have been my lot in this world isn't my way of coping.
Peg, my old terrier walked stiff legged out of the yard to greet me as I approached. I scooped her up in my arms and told her sadly, "She's gone, old girl, Sarah is gone."
Peg let out a "woof" and struggled to get down when she heard Sarah's name. I sat her back down on the sidewalk and watched as she looked for our Sarah. Finally she whined her disappointment and followed me toward the house. I felt so tired and empty as I let myself into the house and sat in my old recliner. Then I wept. Now that no man could see me in my sorrow I unleashed the tears and the misery dammed up inside me.
It seemed I cried my grief for hours, with only my old dog Peg to witness them. She whined her sympathy. At last the tears slowed and then stopped. My soul was drained of all sorrow. Then I remembered how it had been those twenty-one years ago when I held her close and vowed, "Sarah May, I love you so much I'm going to explode."
She hugged hard and whispered, "Me too. Let's go back inside before we get foolish." One time, we had engaged in a little heavy petting and quit after it almost ended in a mishap. We had both vowed to wait for marriage, our marriage because we wanted things done "just right."
"About now, I'm ready to get foolish as hell," I told her. She laughed and dragged me back inside so we could dance another slow dance together. It was the night of the senior prom and we were all wearing our dress suits and the girls in their best formal wear or party dresses.
Then, one week later a tearful Sarah rushed up to me in the school hallway and sobbed, "I have to marry Charlie Potts. If I don't Daddy will go to jail."
"What?" I exclaimed, not understanding. "What are you talking about? What jail?" Not understanding, I stood there in the hallway and held her tight against me, trying to make sense of what she had just said. Charlie Potts was about the most unpopular person in the whole school. Not even his banker father had enough money to buy his son Charlie friends or popularity.
"Charlie's father says that Daddy stole thousands of dollars from the bank and that he can prove it." She looked up at me and sobbed, "What am I going to do?"
"Let's run away right now. If we elope they can't make you marry anybody else."
Her eyes filled with tears. "If we run off, then Daddy will be arrested and go to jail. I have to do what Daddy says. I don't want him in prison, he's my father."
Bit at a time the whole sad tale came out. It was all about hospital bills. Her mother had a brain tumor that appeared without warning and seemed to grow larger almost by the hour. It was malignant. Either she would undergo an operation or she died. Even if the doctors operated on her there was little hope.
They operated and she died anyway while still on the operating table. It had all been so very expensive. The insurance was not enough and their savings were so little and were soon gone. More money had been needed, so Sarah's father stole it and got caught.