Sitting in the middle of her two best friends, Jane and Mia, Andrea was preparing for additional suffering. Andrea would be speaking before her entire community. As each friend grabbed one of her hands, the silence of the Bright City Church was deadly; her mother was too. Although academically gifted, Andrea's public speaking abilities were dreadful. However, today was unlike school. Choosing the wrong way explain a topic would simply result in poor grades at school. How Andrea presented her mother's life with her eulogy as well as how she conducted herself before the community would be remembered for an eternity. Could she demonstrate the expected compassion and mourning for her dearly departed mother without flooding the church with tears? Did her mother raise her as a strong woman prepared to face each challenge or a hopeless cause?
As the pastor faced the church he noticed how little space there was between each person. His normal sermons did not have as many people attend as they did for the funeral. Shocked at the sight of a packed church, he took a deep breath, composing himself.
“Members of Bright City Community, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Dr. Rosalina James-Houghman.” He paused, gesturing the layout, “Given how many individuals are present today, clearly she was deeply loved. This Church is honored to preserve her remains within our burial grounds. Now Andrea, her only child, would certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak at this time...”
Jane and Mia shoved Andrea out of her seat in the front row as the pastor moved aside. The clicking of her formal shoes against the floor as she walked, alone, echoed throughout the Church. Her black dress swished behind her, people staring as she moved forward. A single piece of paper was held in her right hand. Thus far, she believed, she was representing her mother well. Steadily pressing onward represented her composure, instead of stumbling or rushing.
Finally reaching the center of the room, she saw the microphone attached to the podium which would be extremely helpful for her today. When nervous Andrea spoke softly. Facing the crowd, she noticed she was the only person following the 'wear only black' dress code. All were dressed somberly; formal clothing in dark colors, minimal prints, clean shaven etc. Yet only she was wearing all black. Unsettled by this, she became distracted, dropping her paper on the ground. Upon picking the document up, she began reading,
“Umm, hello everybody. Some would call this a simple funeral, I call today a 'celebration of life.' My mother accomplished a significant amount of work as a Doctor of Technological Engineering. However, her most valuable contributions were for the community,” so far she seemed composed. Perhaps a bit too much, given that her solemn voice did not match with her facial expressions. Her face appeared as 'normal' instead of 'distressed and/or anxious.' Most people would not be heartless, nor was she, however, Andrea feared people might think she was.
Emotions and androids, she learned throughout her many lifetimes, were not as easily improved upon. The currently 17 year old, blonde, blue-eyed girl could easily change her appearance, altering her age as necessary. She could 'start over.' Today was the first which she genuinely realized how important a life is because living creatures do not get a second chance. She paused, lost in thought, forgetting she was still speaking at her mother's funeral.
Her mother created Andrea the android upon learning she was unable to bare children and her father was unwilling to consider adoption. He honestly did not believe his wife was capable of such a feat. The Ripping Disease, a medical condition that 'ripped' women apart from the inside out caused her problems. Medical procedures, such as organ transplants and blood transfusions, caused her great anxiety. Allowing his wife to proceed with her experiments distracted her from her pain as she was often receiving medical treatments. As parents raising an exceptionally designed child as a child versus a machine proved challenging. Eventually, results could be seen. Emotional development was always lacking compared with her other developmental improvements however.
As a few people began stand, Andrea said she was not done yet, apologizing for the pause. Disappointed she was not yet through, the back row sat down, politely waiting for the end.
“Unlike me, she had no difficulties speaking before a large amount of people. Using her logical thinking, she easily worked with others, finding ways to improve our beloved homes. While it's rude to discuss a woman's age, many would say she was a second mother/grandmother. Those who were not completely fond of her generally respected her...” looking briefly, she realized she lost the second piece of paper which continued her eulogy. Public speaking was painful enough, improvising increased her anxiety. She already lost her mother, she did not need to spoil her own reputation and her mother's child-rearing skills.
Wringing her hands, as she recalled nervous humans often did under stress, “Umm... I honestly don't know what words would best describe my mother. She would know what words were appropriate for an awkward situation. Umm...” she was uncertain about whether she was expressing enough facial emotions. Contemplating if saying her mother's death was a positive situation, because her suffering ended with her death would sound appropriate, she decided against uttering those words.
If only she had not left the second piece of paper at home, the presentation would have gone smoothly. No one likes being at funerals, and with each pause more people decided leaving would be best. Yelling she was not finished was foolish, given she had so much to say, yet was unable push forward and say anything. People jumping up constantly interrupted her last 'goodbye.' A few sympathetic people stood and spoke of examples of her mother's contributions, such as raising money for school sports and arts. They sounded and behaved like they genuinely cared, unlike Andrea they thought. Andrea cared most of all, yet had the greatest difficulty demonstrating her feelings.
Noticing people trying to leave, for the fifth time, Mia and Jane had enough. They swiftly arose from their front row seats, rushing towards Andrea. Mia moved with precision, Jane nearly knocked over the display. Andrea's mother and father were both dead as of the previous week. Her father was cremated, his ashes kept in a white gold vase engraved with his name, but no specific year listed. The ashes were kept locked away in her mother's 'Secret Laboratory.' The room was her office and only she was permitted inside. Her projects, mostly regarding Andrea's design secrets, were kept locked away from prying eyes.
Keeping her father's ashes was for a sentimental reason; her parent's intended to remain together for all eternity. A matching white gold vase engraved with her mother's name, also missing the year, stood beside her father's vase of ashes. They would be buried together, sharing one grave as they shared one life. Photographs of each individual as well as family photographs were placed around the two vases. The only bright colors in the room came from the photographs and the rainbow flowers placed on each side. Her mother enjoyed all types of flowers; even in death her choices brightened up the room.
After a brief sigh of relief because Jane did not destroy the display, Mia and Jane chose to bail their friend out of a horrendous situation by standing beside her. Mia, an aspiring actress naturally knew improv techniques and Jane was simply an optimistic person unafraid of public presentations. The trio had been friends since Andrea moved to Bright City, during elementary school. Mia and Jane knew both of her parents, however, they spent more time with her mother. For all intents and purposes, the trio were siblings and became inseparable. Mia and Jane had many lovely examples for her eulogy. Choosing which ones would be the difficult task.
Mia, indicating she had something worth sharing took the center stage, as she often did. Andrea gladly moved away, although Jane grabbed her hand, preventing her from leaving completely. Mia moved the microphone away, preventing her from speaking too loudly in church. She stood before the crowd calmly, while still remaining clearly distressed.
Emphasizing the word 'respect,' hoping those who kept constantly jumping up would feel guilty, she said,
“I thank you so much for the respect you have shown my best friend today. As Andrea said, her mother was a second mother for me. I'm sure you realize people are often lost for words during times of great stress. There are few situations I am aware of which cause significant stress than the loss of a loved one.”
A brief smirk covered her sadness as Mia noticed some of the individuals who were standing sit down. She continued, walking in front of the podium; more people sat down as she stood closer.
“While you may have never grieved personally, you have all been at a loss for words. Andrea's mother would show respect for others, often advising them in ways beyond academic tutoring. She was always respectful, regardless of whether the other people around her behaved in such a manner. Her influence rubbed off on most of you during her life, I hope you continue to respect other people although she can no longer provide guidance for us. Thank you for listening to my words with such respect.”
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Mia stood back, allowing Jane to take 'center stage.' The rest of those who attempted leaving finally understood they were behaving disrespectfully towards Andrea and the spirit of her late mother and sat down. Andrea was behind on the 'joke,' until she thought about Mia's words carefully. Sarcasm was difficult for her to identify, as were emotions. There was no lying when noting how respectful her mother was, yet she wondered how respectful sarcasm at a funeral was. The pastor was likely considering such word usage too.
Unlike Mia, Jane was soft spoken and needed the microphone the podium provided. She was also exceptionally clumsy and stumbled; she likely sprained her ankle. Some of the crowd laughed, however, as Jane stood up, limping slightly, she took her turn.
“The dearly departed Dr. James-Houghman, could indeed be considered a respectful maternal figure by many. She was intelligent and empathetic too. The type of person who's example you should follow. For example, although she was a Phd instead of an physician, she learned enough of basic medical practices to provide temporary aid until an actual MD could be contacted. If nothing else, she would bring a chair for someone who sprained their ankle." The pastor took the hint and brought Jane a chair. Sitting down, feeling the pain temporarily disappear, she continued,
“Andrea's mother would never laugh at the sight of a suffering individual. Perhaps suffering so much herself gave her a sense of empathy many people lack. What she did not know about a topic she would learn, medicinal or in another field. She kept money in her purse, instead of only her debt card, often donating to the homeless. She believed their stories versus being too cynical to help 'drug dealers in disguise' a reason so many refuse helping a homeless individual.”
Assuming she should have stopped with her mother donating to the homeless, Andrea and Mia remembered Jane often could not keep much to herself. Bracing themselves for a potential verbal disaster, Andrea, now finally starting to cry, held onto Mia, unable to watch. Jane proudly continued,
“Her willingness to help others in times of need extends beyond her death. She and her late husband were organ donors. Upon both their deaths, they allowed what could be salvaged from their bodies to be taken. Saving another person's life with what was left of their own is a gift any anonymous individual would presumably express eternal gratitude for receiving. Observing their cremations rather than full coffins proves just how much they gave. We should all behave like she did, giving and doing everything she could, aspiring to improve.”
After all the awkward interruptions and her best friends help, they both made certain Andrea faced the end. Looking into the crowd, who had all sat down once more, she finally felt all the interruptions were done. Grabbing the microphone, she simply stated,
“Rest in peace mother. I love you and wish you the best in the afterlife. Goodbye.” Her words were not met with laughter or rudeness; a chorus of “rest in peace, goodbyes” and other kind words rang throughout the church like a hymn.
Finished speaking, Andrea lead the crowd into leaving. Of all people she was the one who wanted an escape from the funeral. She was uncertain if the trio's combined eulogy represented her mother and herself well. Her mother would always support her, even if a public presentation went awry, therefore, Andrea believed she was well represented. Her walk through the church doors and out into the open provided her with a physical and psychological enlightenment.
As she looked down, she noticed a slip of paper in a nearby bush and picked the slightly damp paper up. Her suspicions were correct upon reading the piece of paper; it was the second half of her carefully written eulogy. Upon finishing, she realized her writing was not nearly as memorable as the events of the day. Even with Jane's 'too much information' and Mia's 'genuine yet sarcastic' words, if not for them, the day would have come crashing down.
Realizing being interrupted was not always a negative, she considered her current situation from a different point of view. The current Andrea was almost 18, the age children leave their parents. So helpful her mother was overprotective. Their parting forced Andrea into protecting herself, finally into adulthood. However, she was not alone in the world. Her 'sister's' saved her at the funeral. The trio was united and would likely maintain their relationships, helping each other survive.
Hypothetically, she could keep 'starting over' for eternity. However, technology would become more advanced compared to herself as the centuries passed. Eventually, she would die from becoming outdated. Living her current life into old age, perhaps not taking advantage of her enhancements to move away 'young' might be best this time. Staring at the back of the church, where both of her parents would be buried together, she tore the paper up into tiny pieces. She then blew on them and the wind from her breath made them fly across the nearby area.
“Goodbye father, goodbye mother, I love you both,” she whispered. Alone she was able to freely express a simple desire, with no interruptions. Whether she would 'start over' or experience all parts of life was her choice. She had plenty of time left. Her decision was one that did not immediately require an answer...Not just yet.