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Monet, Arkansas was just as I had pictured. Hot, humid, and quiet. The quaint little town had a slow, yet constant whisper as I stood there in the cemetery. The trees joined in with a “whoosh” and the birds sang a cheerful lullaby. The sun froze to middle of the sky and we stood steaming in the heat. I was getting antsy as angry wasps formed in my stomach, as a symptom to the humid heat.
“It's normal for non-southern-folks to feel that way, honey,” my Gam-gam whispered to me, as she took my hand tearfully, “your mama wasn't a person for the heat either.”
“Ya,” I smiled, looking back at the grave where my grandpa was buried, “she'd always complain about the heat in Utah.” We stood in silence waiting for everyone else to park their vehicles and join in. My aunt Kara handed me a vase withs freshly picked assorted flowers. Although I could not name them, I knew that they were my mother's favorite.
“Here sugar, take this and go put it down right there.” Her long index finger pointed to a small box with a black handkerchief covering it. I nodded and did so.
I placed the vase with the assorted white, purple, red, and yellow flowers on the box. At the same time my brother, Cody, placed a picture of my mother beside the vase.
Cody's eyes where red and teary, while mine were still dry.
“Am I supposed to cry?” The thought lingered in my head. I wanted to look strong in front of my family, but if I didn't cry than I will look as if I didn't care. I pushed the thought aside and joined in with the half circle my family was forming
I stood beside my father and brother. My Gam-gam and ''Papa Jay'', as we called him, stood closest to the grave talking to the preacher. The rest of aunts and uncles, including four of my cousins, stood in silence. Waiting for the ceremony to begin.
The wait was long and my stomach couldn't take much more of the heat. To my relief, the preacher finished his discussion and stepped to the center of the half circle.
“Today is a day in which all of us are mourning,” the preacher started off saying. “We are mourning the lose of a loved one. Kelly Anne. She was a caring sister. A loving wife. And a determined mother in her life time. The preacher paused for a loud assortment of sniffles and quiet intakes of breath. While I waited for the tall man to continue, I forced my eyes not to produce tears. Unsuccessfully two clear tears escaped and I quickly wiped the warm substance away.
Then the preacher continued with his emotional speech. Strong emotions of sadness began to fill up inside of me, so I chose to ignore the rest of what the preacher was going to say. Mainly because I feared that if I did listen to the rest, I would break down crying uncontrollably, like a three year old losing his favorite toy.
Instead I decide to gaze into the distance at the tall line of trees that boxed the cemetery in. The trees were in full bloom and had gorgeous green leaves, some of which, started to turn yellow in the late summer air. I noticed the trees also varied in species from Oak, or Maple, to the state tree of Pine. I even saw a few blended red cedar trees. But off in a distant field was a single tree that was tall and bushy, and the low branches draped over to create a most depressing scene. I couldn't identify the tree and it was beginning to irritate me. Then a tight squeeze on my shoulder interrupted my thoughts. I turned from the direction of the trees and faced my dad and brother. My father was teary eyed, as to my brother, who had a river of tears streaming down his face.
“She's just like her daddy.” I heard my Gam-gam behind me, as I started to walk away from the service that was now finished.
“Ya,” my aunt Kara agreed, “didn't cry the whole service. I wonder why.”
“Well, I guess she just doesn't know how to show her emotions yet. Poor baby.” They continued with their conversation in a whisper hoping I wouldn't hear I guess. But I did and it was true. I didn't cry. Being said, was it so wrong? I didn't want the sympathy, or the “I understand” from the preacher, or even a hug. At that moment I wanted to cry. Because of anger, because of sadness, and because of everything that had happened this day. But for some odd reason the thought felt alien to me. I still kept my jaw clenched tight to keep the tears wanting to escape, locked up tight.
I turned and decided to walk to my mothers new grave where I could see her ashes would lay. Next to my grandfather. That's where she had always wanted to be buried.
Happy memories flooded back so suddenly that I had to smile. I remembered all of my birthdays and holidays spent with her. Back then. When things had been happy and almost blissful. When I could go to her for help with homework, or inform her of new drama with the mean girls at school, and the most famous one yet, how boys were so gross. Back then. It existed no more and as hard as I tried to, I could never clearly cherish them the same. With that came the sad memories. Like a flash of lightening. So fast, yet they left such an impact. Ones filled of despair as I watched my mother struggle time and time again with her oxygen. Ones that filled my heart with grief, as I could do nothing, but watch as her condition got worse and worse. And finally, the last memories I had of her existing life. Memories of her frail body, her faint smile, and her brittle hands were imprinted into my head, like words in a book.
Then, as if adding to the lightening, the tears came like a horrible rain storm that had been brewing in my eyes for hours. The tears flooded out of my eyes and quickly streamed down my face. I couldn't stand it. I bowed my head and slowly walked to my Gam-gam's car. Angry at myself for showing tears.
“It's alright baby.” At that moment my grandma hugged me tight. So tight that I had to giggle. I loved grandma hugs! No matter what mood I was in. “How 'bout we get some Good Ol' Home Cookin' in your lil' stomach!” her deep southern accent sounded warm and loving.
“Ya!” I sniffled a breath. “ Sounds great to me.”
On our way out of the cemetery I spotted the mysterious tree again. “Hey,” I pointed to the tree in the field, “what type of tree is that?”
“Oh that?” She looked over at it. “That's a Pecan tree. Why do you ask?” Then I knew why that tree seemed so familiar!
My mom used to tell my brother and I how she had dozens of Pecan trees in her yard growing up in Monet. We would always giggle and burst into laughter as she told us bizarre stories about those Pecan trees. The Pecan also used to be her favorite nut, which she always thought was best on Thanksgiving or Christmas as a topping for pie. Those, I decided, were treasured moments in my life and the Pecan would remind me every time. The Pecan. Such a simple nut, yet it is a word that now will hold a powerful meaning for me.
“No reason. I just really love that nut.” A smile streaked across my face, wrinkling the lines created by dried tears left behind. Then she laughed.
“Well, your in luck. 'Cause I made your mama's favorite. Pecan pie.”
Instead of crying, I nodded and said, “Yep, it's my favorite too!” Suddenly a warm feeling ran through me and then I didn't feel quite so sad anymore.
“Just like your mama!” Then she reached over from her drivers seat and hugged me. “Just like your mama.”