The First Chapter of "The Rising" by Robert Ovies | IPNovels.com
It was, as wake services go, unremarkable. Marion Klein had been a faithful wife for twenty-one years, a gracious mother for seventeen, and a genuinely loved member of the St. Veronica parish staff for nearly six. She had more than what some might consider the usual number of close friends, due both to her highly visible position as parish secretary and her natural affinity for smiling one of those smiles that surges up easily and often to signal a deep and contagious appreciation of life.
Her easy disposition was a joy not only to her husband, Ryan, but also to her children, Truman and Dawn, both teens and both the only children of a St. Veronica parish staff member not named after a Roman Catholic saint—a meaningless aside that Father Mark Cleary had rolled his eyes over in mock dismay on more than one occasion during the half-dozen good years that he and Marion worked so closely together.
Since it had been her nature to find reason to smile in what others knew must be difficult circumstances, everyone wondered how Marion would handle the spreading cancer that her doctor whispered upon her exactly three years ago this month. But as everyone who came to the MacInnes Funeral Home agreed, she handled it as well as anyone could. She fought it with chemistry and good humor until a few days into June when she finally lay too weak to walk and too toxic to pretend and let Father Mark—her pastor, employer, and friend—anoint her with the oil of a sad and quiet blessing for what Father Mark said was her peace and healing but for what Marion knew was, in fact, her death.
Now, with a thin, gray Tuesday rain sprinkling the beginnings of another humid Michigan summer and 124 friends and relatives gathered to visit and cry and smile and say good-bye to a dear friend and companion, Father Mark recalled Marion’s cheerfulness and offered a prayer that she now, at last, would be completely and finally healed in God, the One in whom, for all of eternity, “Marion’s joy will be complete.”
He felt the loss of her company personally, and everyone knew it. It was appreciated. Then he invited others to share some memory and a number of them did, including Marion’s sixteen-year-old son, who told about having to eat tomato soup and bacon at his mom’s insistence every time he broke a fever, “to get salt back into my system”, and how his mother’s jokes had helped him through so many hard times of his own, even though he was only a teenager, and that he would really, really miss her. His thirteen-year-old sister talked briefly about carnivals and how her mom had always laughed a lot, and how that is the way she would like to be, and she would be, even though she was crying now. Others cried with her. Her dad chose to avoid speaking, not for lack of memories but from the weight of too many, too quickly passed. Ryan and Marion had been married in college, and this was a hard, hard night.
After fifteen minutes of memories, which passed quickly, Father Mark prayed his final blessing, and the service quietly ended. He shook hands with Ryan and Marion’s brother, Kerry, who lived on the west side of the state but seldom visited. Dawn hugged the priest briefly and then her dad, long and hard. Nearly a hundred people came slowly up to the casket, some in pairs, to kneel beside Marion’s body and make a quick sign of the cross, a few to touch her rigid hand, some hovering very near for a long moment of reflection or discomfort or both, some nodding quickly and moving on. One leaned over and seemed about to kiss her, but didn’t, whispering several words instead. Most stood at a safe distance and simply stared, perhaps thinking of Marion’s death, perhaps thinking of their own.
Good-nights were exchanged. Doors opened. Umbrellas were raised. Giles MacInnes and his two assistants, Dave Harmon and Giles’ own daughter, Melissa, still in college and still in training, stood in black and thanked everyone for coming. They smiled, but not too much.
The mourners filed into the night carefully, as though afraid something else in their life might break. Ryan Klein finally cried, barely, and Dawn and Truman did, too. They spoke briefly to Father Mark and to Giles about the next day’s service. Then it was time to close.
Melissa went to the office to note the evening’s service for her files. Dave Harmon quickly straightened the chairs that had been rearranged during the service, then checked the restrooms for lost articles. He found nothing. He slipped on his coat, said good-night to Giles, and walked with Melissa to the parking lot, locking the front door behind them. Giles, by his own choice, was also responsible for final lockup. He glanced quickly around the now-silent viewing room. He had an efficient eye. The room was in generally good order. It always was. He would leave the red-padded folding chairs in place, probably too many for the morning, but better too many than too few. A black silk scarf had slipped to the floor next to the couch. His assistant hadn’t noticed it. There was always something. Giles picked the scarf up with a casual sweep of his hand and placed it on the coat-rack by the door, where someone would certainly see and retrieve it if they made their way back for the morning service. If not, no matter.
With that, he straightened two more chairs, glanced briefly at his watch, and turned just in time to see Marion Klein’s crystal rosary slide with a terrible grace, like the world coming to an end in sickening slow motion, over the back of her rising left hand and across her trembling, rose-polished fingernails to drop with a click as tiny as death on her slowly stirring chest.