It was strange sitting there. I shouldn’t have been surprised but it still felt wrong somehow. I’d gotten there early and wished I would have waited and just snuck in the back row.
But I suppose it would have been awkward no matter how I arrived given the circumstances. Maybe it would have been better if they just cancelled the whole thing.
Now it just seemed like a sham. Come to think of it, maybe that was appropriate too. It’s not like she and I owed each other anything anymore.
But I suppose I still cared enough about her to feel the pressure to attend.
The priest took his place at the front. And the cellist, who had been playing softly, withdrew her bow and let the organ music fill the room. Some songs always get to me.
This was one of them. Would it be as emotional if it was played on a clarinet? Probably.
The priest began, ‘dearly beloved, we are gathered here...” I tuned him out. I didn’t really need to hear any of it anyway. And the awkwardness was becoming unbearable.
Talk about being singled out. I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.
The priest went on giving the same routine he’d no doubt given countless times already.
How many, I wondered? How many people had he said these words for? It was almost embarrassing when you thought about it. It was certainly humiliating for me.
But it was worse for her, not that she’d notice now. I wasn’t sure she even cared if I came or not.
Claire Monroe. It’s hard to imagine her as someone else, as a person unattached to me. Even though truth be told, she never really was. Not in the way I needed her to be anyway.
Not in the way I craved. I didn’t know what it would have taken to make it turn out differently. But I was sure we loved each other once. We must have.
At least I like to think so and I need to hang on to that thought. Because thinking anything else is just too sad somehow. What a colossal waste of time.
When Claire said she was leaving I wasn’t surprised. She’d been talking about finding herself for as long as I could remember.
She had this fantasy of going where no one knew her and living anonymously. She ended up doing it. And eventually she lived completely off the grid. That suited her.
She couldn’t wait to put the past behind her and me along with it. And I learned to be without her, to take care of myself and move on.
The priest finished his remarks. I looked up and we made eye contact. He gave me a hint of a smile. Sympathetic and professional. I stood up and walked to the pulpit and shook his hand.
‘A real shame,’ he said. ‘Didn’t she have anyone else at all?’
I shook my head. ‘She was never very conventional,” I said.
“Still,” he put a hand on my shoulder. I shuddered involuntarily. “She was still your mother. I’m sure you’ll miss her.”
I picked up the urn. “Yes,” I said, “ever since I was 12.”
Then I turned and walked past the empty pews and out into the sunshine.