Marcus left the funeral, a man cut adrift in the world. He hadn’t felt so alone since returning from the war. Everywhere Marcus went, his Eva had been there, every victory, every dream, every goal, shared. Now without her, there was a hole inside. Not black, not empty, but pure unadulterated vacuum that gnawed away at his insides.
Marcus didn’t cry outwardly, what good would it do? Inside though, the feelings were welling and roiling and he felt the dam was going to burst. There was going to be a wake, and he would go to it of course, but first Marcus needed some air.
Despite their years of not particularly caring for religion, Eva had been adamant that Jack should grow up being a part of a church. She took him to church and they were a part of the community there, despite not really ever believing in some of the more fanciful aspects of the religion. Marcus didn’t go though. For special occasions, yes, but it seemed to go against the grain of who he was.
He recognize however, that the community had been helpful when they’d found out she was sick and had done their best to stop by and let her know she wasn’t forgotten.
“I wish they would forget me,” she said one day after Sister Brekken brought her some Hot Dish. Sister Brekken was a terrible cook, and sadly for the quality of fare at the church picnics, her lack of skill in the culinary art was inversely matched to her enthusiasm for it. Dry overcooked salmon, boiled steaks and cookies that were burnt on the bottom and raw on the top.
Eva’s pain medication had been wearing off hours before the next time it would be given her and she was in pain. When Eva was in pain, she wouldn’t complain, she would get sharp. “It is amazing to me that anyone could be so bad at something they practiced so much.”
“It’s like I used to tell Jack and the other boys on the team. Practice makes- -habits. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Marcus smiled, wishing his wife’s pain away.
“Still though, the law of large numbers would seem to indica-“ Eva stopped herself and smiled happily. “Of a sudden, I’m thankful for two things I never thought I would be.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“My pain and Sister Brekken’s cooking.”
“They’ve made me so miserable that you forgot your own misery to make me smile.”
Marcus thought for a second. “Jack.” He said.
Eva nodded. “You know that’s the first time you’ve said his name and smiled since we got that damned letter.”
The letter in question wasn’t the one that the military sent them to inform them of their son’s death in Vietnam. The letter was one from Jack, that had been stuck in the mail and arrived on the day of the funeral. In it, Jack had written about how beautiful the countryside was and how he would take his parents to see how amazing it was, as soon as the war was over. All of the certainty that he and the boys were doing the right thing and would be home before you knew it was writ large in between the lines of that letter.
Of course, the church had insisted on holding the funeral and making the arrangements and Marcus had no desire to stop them. It would do them some good to be useful.