By S.B. Borgersen
“I’ve never been to a funeral with an open coffin,” Phyllis told Tom.
“Just hang on to my arm,” he said, “you don’t have to look.”
She slept badly. Tossing and turning. Looking at the clock. Wondering if anyone would be offended if she didn’t wear black. There hadn’t been time to shop for funeral clothes.
Tom said, “People round here don’t worry about that kind of thing.”
It was taking some getting used to; this rural way of life, where people mattered more than material possessions. Where food was produced regardless of the hour of the day or night you knocked on a neighbour’s door: platters of Lunenburg sausage; bowls of fish chowder; homemade barley bread and tea-biscuits; blueberry grunt; Solomon Gundy; sauer kraut, and pickled eggs. Whatever people had in their pantries, they were always willing to share.
Where wearing a red coat for a funeral was fine too, as long as you were there.
The tiny wooden church was already filling up and Tom steered her down to the front with the family. She sat on the end of the pew in wonderment at the crowd of smiling people. There were no funeral clothes at all, she understood now what Tom meant. Jeans and plaid shirts, ball caps and sneakers. She could see that the important thing was that everyone was there because they loved Earl.
Earl was Tom’s uncle. He was a fisherman. He was also a musician. Phyllis was taken by surprise the first time she heard Earl play the fiddle. He played jigs and reels for impromptu kitchen parties with such ease, but also with a depth of interpretation that struck her inner being. That was the night she got talking to Tom. The night her life took on a course all of its own. Earl’s fiddle playing caused her to stop looking for something more in her life; to appreciate what was right in front of her nose. And that was Tom.
Phyllis didn’t mind when Earl’s open coffin was placed in the aisle right beside her. She looked in at Earl’s peaceful waxen face, catching, what she thought was, a tremble of a smile on his lips. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Then Earl’s fiddle band played and the crowd sang, with gusto, “Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.”
Phyllis, smiling, joined in.
Internationally published, S.B. Borgersen writes poetry, short and micro fiction. She also has 13 draft novellas gathering dust. She’s a long-standing member of the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation, Writers Abroad, and a founding member of the Liverpool Literary Society. Sue judged the Atlantic Writing Competition (Poetry) 2016 and Hysteria (Poetry) 2017. www.sueborgersen.com