"Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too"
John Mayer - circa 2003
The air was crisp and bitter cold. The sun was bright and amplified its strength as it reflected off the freshly fallen snow. Trees scattered throughout the cemetery were naked and leafless at the mercy of the coming months of bitter winter that lay waiting. The cemetery was etched into a large area of land lying in the rolling hills on the outskirts of town.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me"
The pastor continued the sermon as he looked into the crowd of people gathered around the two grave sites. There was one typical adult grave site with the hole dug and coffin hovering over it waiting and alongside it, a disturbing small coffin. There also sat a third coffin hovering over a third fresh hole off in the snowy distance a hundred or so yards away. The crowd was gathered around the adult coffin and the infant coffin. The adult coffin in the distance was agonizingly unattended. There was not a single person gathered around it. That coffin was silently lowered into the grave without a single person's acknowledgement or sorrow. No souls wept.
The mourners huddled around the child and adult graves comforting each other, crying and speechless. The attendees were gathered around an elderly man and woman both dressed in black.
A lone woman stood near the crowd of people. She was dressed in black and was visibly uncomfortable. She was standing apart from the rest of the crowd as she neared the elderly couple. She stood silent, standing near the couple crying and hanging head low. She did not want everyone to see how upset she was.
The sermon concluded and the crowd began to disperse back to their vehicles. They hugged, consoled for one final moment and parted with their heads low and quiet.
"Mr. & Mrs. Adams ? " the lone woman said quietly as she walked over and looked up into their swollen eyes and heavy faces. "My name is Carrie. I just wanted to offer my deepest sympathy for your daughter and granddaughter. I am truly sorry for what happened. I am so sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." the man said. The woman lifted her head quietly and looked at the woman who offered the condolences to her. She looked at her a little perplexed.
"Who are you Miss?" she quietly asked.
"My name is Carrie."
"How did you know my daughter and granddaughter ?"
"I actually didn't know them. I really hate to say this, but I knew Nick. We were together for several years a long time ago." Carrie muttered. She did her best to fight back her tears.
The woman looked at Carrie in shock. "What are you doing here ! What do you want here?"
"I am so sorry Mrs. Adams I came here to pay my respects to your daughter and granddaughter. I came to make sure that Nick is gone and buried forever."
"That bastard is going straight to hell. After what he did to my daughter." She cried out as she turned and put her hand in the air at Carrie. Her head was hung low as she began crying all over again."
Carrie was the last one at the gravesites. She sat quietly with her head low and cried for the woman and her daughter as their final resting place was being covered with earth by the grave workers.
She walked over to the third gravesite and looked at it and tears began to well in her eyes once again. "You horrible horrible man. How could you do this? How could you kill your wife and three year old child. You were evil when I knew you and you are evil now. I hope you burn in hell. You bastard!"
As these final words were being whispered to Nick's grave I walked over to the gravesite where Carrie stood, head low. I walked over and stood a moment beside her. She was unaware of my presence until I put an arm around her.
Startled, Carrie looked up quickly to see who was beside her. She thought she felt the presence of someone near her and thought someone was also maybe lingering around the three gravesites.
"Ray ?" Carrie said startled and still crying. She quickly wiped her eyes and face with the tissue she had been clutching. " What…. What are you doing here ? How did you know about this ? How did you know about Nick?" . She looked at him with confusion and bewilderment.
"I read it in the papers and internet. It's national news you know. It was on CNN and in our local paper. It was awful what happened. Just awful. When I saw that the murderers name was Nick Adams , I knew it had to be your old Nick. My stomach sank when I heard the name. I checked into it and found out that the funeral was today. I have business in Canada this week so I decided to make a stop along the way. I came here for the victims. I came here for closure . Is that why you are here?" I said.
"Yes. I came to make sure they buried Nick."
"It's over now, come on. Let's go. " I said softly as I crossed Carrie's arm into mine and turned her away from the coffin and away from the terrible scene of the gravesites. The infant gravesite was too much for her or anyone to be exposed to.
We walked away quietly as snow began to gently fall once again. It gathered on our black coat's lapels and shoulders.
"Where are you parked ? I'll walk you back." I asked.
"I am over there." She pointed at the farthest reach of the parking lot for the cemetery.
"Didn't want any attention drawn to you huh?" I said and tried to smile a bit.
She just shook her head no.
"Me either." As I pointed to the car that was parked four spaces away from hers.
She eeked out a slight smile. She held his arm tight and pulled me closer to her.
"You were always there for me and you are still here for me. What would I ever do without you Ray?"
I held her arm tighter in mine and rested my head on the top of her head. "You would have caved and not finished college. I don't even want to think about what could have happened."
"I know. Don't say it. I know it. That could have been me in that coffin...and my child."
We stood by our cars in the freezing cold and talked as the snow continued to fall on and around us. I discovered that she is in a childless marriage and that she and her husband work far too much. She discovered that I never married. She told me she made the trip to town alone and was staying at a motel not far from the cemetery. We discovered that we were not due to leave the city for a few days and that we had some time to catch up on where our lives had taken us since we last spoke years ago.
"Do you have dinner plans?" I asked knowing that I still had a lot of family in the city.
"I am going over to my parents from here and will probably only be able to handle a couple of hours of them saying "I told you so …….. about Nick of course. Need I explain further?"
"So uh……you didn't really answer the question. Is that a yes?" I smiled.
It was a relief to see her bright smile, which quickly turned into a roll of her eyes. We hugged and agreed to meet at the A House , our old college hangout at seven that evening. This allowed Carrie to spend the appropriate amount of time with her parents before bailing on them.
I folded my tall body into the little brown rental and turned the key to start the car. The bitter cold air and the frost on the windows reminded me that I was not used to the cold weather anymore. I was used to the sunny and subtropical beauty of the West Coast of Florida where I live my quiet life.
I sat in the car, hands cupped around my mouth as I tried to blow hot air into them and rub them to get the heat and circulation going again. I reached for the heater and cranked it to high. I flipped on the wipers to push away the bit of snow that had gathered on the windshield.
I saw Carrie leaning over her car brushing away the little bit of snow that had also gathered on her windshield.
My thoughts led to the A House and meeting Carrie there. The memories flooded in as they took me back to our first day at college and our profound effect on one another. It was almost twenty years ago.