The Mourners

November 23, 2012
Based on a Pink Floyd song

“We are gathered here today to mourn and celebrate the life of John Anderson, loving son, caring brother…”

“Let us pray.”


“The service is now dismissed.”

The crisp November air cut into the two mourners as they left the church, stumbling through the frosty parking lot towards their car. Several times they were stopped by fellow mourners, who offered condolences that all sounded suspiciously alike. Neither of the two mourners cared. What good would words do for them now? Words couldn’t bring a good man back from the grave. Words could not ease the pain.

Their breath billowed visibly out into the air, and she pulled her coat tighter around herself, tottering at her stately pace and hating herself for slowing her son down. He knew she wished to walk at his pace, but with her feeble legs it just wasn’t an option, and so slowed down to allow her to walk beside him. The weak yellow light of the sun just barely filtered through the wispy gray clouds, touching on the silver of her hair in a way that made it glisten and gleam like polished metal. Then a gust of wind came screaming in their faces, and he moved closer to his mother to make sure she wasn’t knocked over by the breeze.

Once they had gotten to their car, the mourners turned around and watched the rest of the congregation, black shadows clumping together in large groups. None of them were breaking away from the pack and struggling towards their respective cars as the guests of honor had done. In fact, they most likely hadn’t noticed the absence of the mourners. They were talking eagerly to one another, excited to see each other after having been away for so long. The funeral had been turned into a family reunion, and it made her absolutely sick with anger. Now was the time for private grieving, not schmoozing and lounging and making plans of future get-togethers. He caught the murderous glint in her eye, and opened the car door to distract her and prevent her from marching over to the mourners and giving them a piece of her mind.

“I’ll drive.” He spoke numbly and mindlessly, knowing there was no point in saying what he had to say. He had driven to the cemetery in the first place, and the keys were still in his pocket. The bells began to toll in the church’s steeple, and his fingers moved up to brush his silk lapel, a meaningless gesture, but one that gave him an odd comfort. He waited for his mother to get into the car before heading in himself. They buckled their seatbelts and he started the car, its droning engine sounding like a suitable dirge.

They stared emptily out the window as he drove down the streets he knew by heart and by name. There wasn’t much traffic today, it being a Sunday, but he fancied losing himself in his mind and colliding with a wayward vehicle. However, such a thing could never happen here, no matter how distracted he was. He would always know exactly where he was going in this small town.

The radio was off, and it stayed off. Neither of the two was quite in the mood for music yet.

Goodbye, Max. Goodbye, Ma. Take care. I love you. Those had been the last words they had heard him speak, accompanied with a smile and a salute. They were the last words that the family of John Anderson, loving son and caring brother, had heard from him period, as the post brought in no letters from the frontlines. It was only when the news came in, news of a terrible death, of a shooting in the sky, that they realized that was the last time they would ever see their beloved family member.

The car moved aimlessly and restlessly down the road. It was about one o’clock, and he was starting to think about getting lunch. But how could they get lunch after this? How could things go back to normal with the snap of a finger? After the funeral service, how could they resume their life as if nothing else had happened that day?

Arguing with his inner self was dreary, as either way he would win and at the same time he would lose. He pulled into the parking lot of a café and walked his mother to the front door. The waiter inside said that there were several tables available, and showed the mourners to their seats.

A band was playing on the miniature stage at the back of the café. The tables surrounding the stage were full, but none of the apparent concertgoers were singing or dancing along. They sat, oblivious to the noise level, and shouted their conversations to each other, or closed their eyes and clasped their hands, nodding along to the beat of the music with meditative expressions. The song that the band was playing at the moment was slow and dreamy, accompanied by gentle keyboards, mellow bass, and soft, chiming guitar. The lyrics were distorted by the microphone, but he caught a few words here and there about a lost lover, and pleading for her to come back.

He wished that the band had been playing something more upbeat. It would have been nice to blast his emotions out with wailing guitar and angry lyrics, leaving behind nothing but an empty shell of what he had been. Across the table, she sipped her ice water slowly, holding the glass in trembling arthritic hands. The music rose to a high pitch, and the singer crooned into his microphone, “Hold on to the dream!”

Hold on to the dream. He clung to the song as if it was his lifeline, tears rising in his eyes. His mother set the glass of water down, and he reached over and took her hand, rubbing it to warm her skin. She looked away from him, staring at the band onstage through watery eyes, tears streaming down her own, wrinkled cheeks.

Hold on to the dream.

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