A Day of Remembrance

Bryan Stephens

The day was dark and gloomy. This is a day I would experience closure to a beloved part of my life's story. A hushed gray had fallen over the landscape, and there I stood at the center of a storm of misery. I looked and could see all the sorrow of past lives tell their many stories. These were the tombstones, markers of lives long forgotten or recently departed. There, just a hundred yards shy of the spot where I stood was the tombstone of a grandfather whom I never knew. Not far from there a tombstone marked the grave of one of the richest men ever to live in our county. His was a stone of much splendor, but age had robbed it of its rich sheen of wealth. The tombstones were not the only grave markers on this day. There around where I resided, stood the citizens of a small town shocked into numbed silence. There to my left stood Gary Johnson, the superintendent of our tiny school system. He always acted as if he were a cut above the rest of us; but on this day death proved to be the great equalizer it is because he was downcast with the rest of Elmore's citizens. To the right of the grave site stood Bill Picket, the resident crazy person of the town. He was a man many in the town made fun of, but not on this day of sorrow.

It was a chilly afternoon in late December, but that was not the reason for my discomfort. Around me stood five other young men all with the same task, to bury a friend. One of these young men was a killer. This is what I thought of him on that dreary day. They said it was an accident, but this, I could not believe. We were in full suits, though not all of us owned suits, so those of us who did not own suits borrowed them. This made us look rag-tag and misshapen, but none present seemed to notice.

I stood looking at a freshly dug grave. I was really looking at a chasm in my soul. This chasm is where I wished to live, never to be found again by the anguish of this moment. I wished to be lost forever in my own self doubt and pity, and I remained lost for the next three years of my life. In this time, I never looked up to see any change around me. I would float from day to day, week to week, and month to month not caring what would happen to me. It was during this time that I got into drugs and alcohol. This was the lowest point in my life.

I started to look around at those in attendance of this bleak event. I looked up to see the rest of the procession arriving from town. It was like a kaleidoscope, the many different vehicles with their many different hues of colors. This sickened me in a way, because I knew not all were there to pay their last respects. Some were there only to be seen. This event was nothing more than a social gathering to these few individuals. then came the hearse at the end of the procession, as if it were Death's chariot. As the people were getting out of their assorted automobiles, I thought, "This is pathetic." These people were like noblemen of ancient times jockeying for position just to be noticed by their lord. They were all stuck in their own agendas. Then came his mother. It was as if Death Itself had touched her face. She had always been the backbone of the family. Not on this day. She was a tired woman aged way beyond her years. Her eyes said that someone had robbed her of her will to live. Someone had and that thief was standing next to me. He was there, never saying a word. You could have easily mistaken him for one of the many statues of the cemetery. He and I had always gotten along, but not on this dreary day. As I scanned the assembled mass of human bodies, my eyes fell upon Misty Wiley, the one person I did not want to see in attendance. For she had almost destroyed this all too short friendship of mine. Her jealousy had been of him the whole time we were together, because I loved him and not her. She was standing there crying for what reason I did not know.

I wanted to walk up to her and say, "Why don't you just shut up."

This I could not do, because I knew I would have hit her. So there I stood amid my own sorrow, grief and regret being my only companions on that day.

Then the preacher said, "It is time to start."

I and the other pallbearers walked single file to the back of the hearse. We opened the door and there the steel-encased coffin. There lay a very special part of my life. We removed the casket from the car and proceeded towards its final resting place – the chasm in my soul. As the preacher was delivering his sermon, I kept thinking of that Wednesday when I found out.

I just kept going over what I had thought on that day, "This isn't real. I can't be. He is the safest person I know around guns. HE CAN'T BE DEAD."

This last thought brought the final tears to my eyes. As the coffin was lowered into the earth, I knew this chapter in my life was closed, never to be reopened. Why I have written about this experience I do not know. But it was my passage from childhood. Many people have experiences that contribute to the journey of their passage. In this I felt I was unique. As final resting place was lowered into the earth, I knew I had completed this journey in an instant.

This story or essay depending on what you want to call it was written when I was fifteen. I have grown up a great deal since that cold day. I know that chasm in my soul has healed somewhat, but it is a wound that will never truly close.

I have long since forgiven the murder for this deed. I now realize that it was a horrible accident that we all suffered for equally.

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Jerry Jones