A Celebration of Life

Submitted into Contest #255 in response to: Write a story about someone finding acceptance.... view prompt

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American Fiction Inspirational

Contains the sadness of death of a loved one.

A Celebration of Life

A Celebration of Life. That’s what they call it nowadays. Funeral service, Memorial, Wake, Requiem Mass, there’s lots of names for it. But, for the widow or widower who truly loved the spouse, they all mean the same thing . . . separation, loneliness, despair.

         Such was the case for Mrs. Anna Kestler. She and Samuel had been married sixty years. Two daughters and six grandchildren had come from this union. It had been a blessed marriage. Not without some travails, but their love had brought them through, and old age had brought an inexpressible comfort in each other’s company.

         Anna sat through the eulogies with many a nod to the good qualities of her lifetime companion. At times, her concentration would wander, and she would begin thinking about how things would be different now. So many of their expressions are now obsolete. No one else would understand the true meaning nor how they originated. “Now you’ve gone to meddling!” That was one they would tease each other with when confronted with better logic in a debate over some trivial disagreement.

         “That’s the one I wanted!” would be said with a smile after either of them had tried their best to find out what the other would like when deciding who would eat which left-over. Each always wanted the other to have what they really would prefer. Then, after one gave up and made a choice the other would feign disappointment with, “That’s the one I wanted!”

         The service ended. Anna was sad but composed. She had become misty-eyed several times when she looked up as her daughters extolled the virtues of their father; some of the grandchildren sniffed through expressions of their love for Grandpa. They all rose as the casket was rolled to the awaiting hearse for the procession to the cemetery.

         Anna rode with her two daughters in the funeral home limousine, silent for the most part, except for the stifled whimpers of the younger daughter, Barbara. Her mother put her arm around her and pulled her closely, resting her head on Barbara’s shoulder. Janice, the older daughter, held her mother’s other hand, squeezing it gently several times.

         The cemetery was only a few blocks away. They waited in the car until the director opened the door and escorted them to the open grave. Both daughters began weeping at the sight of the coffin suspended above it. Anna held both of their hands and drew them near as they sat on the front row beneath a green canvas tent.

         The pastor led a brief prayer, quoted some scripture, blessed the soul of Samuel Leon Kestler and wished him God Speed to his promised inheritance of eternal life, then knelt down to the widow and whispered his condolences.

         The elder Mrs. Kestler, Janice and Barbara moved to the casket, and each laid a single rose upon it. This was followed by boutonnieres of the grandsons and other pall bearers. Anna did not wish to view the covering of the grave, but she stoically sat with a pitiful look as her husband, her lover, her best friend was lowered into the earth. A final pronouncement, “dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” was spoken by the preacher and everyone dispersed. Many filed by the widow and children to give a final expression of sympathy and a parting hug.

         The family and close friends drove straight to the Kestler home. Neighbors had showered the family with food. It was not a morose occasion. They told stories about Sam and laughed at many. He was a good sport and would have laughed the hardest, had he been there to hear them.

         Anna listened to them all, smiled, laughed with them, nodded in agreement to both the humorous and admiring things told about her Sam. Everyone was glad she was not too disconsolate. She apparently bore what was the greatest devastation of her 81 years with fortitude and grace.

         Finally, the day ended. All had left her home save the two daughters and the eldest granddaughter who was also her namesake. “Little Anna” was 30 years old. She accompanied her grandmother to the bedroom being most solicitous and concerned as Grandmother Anna was telling her a story. The younger Anna didn’t want to interrupt the story by bidding good night and proceeding to the den couch where she would sleep.

         Grandma continued her story as she took off her earrings and necklace to place them back in her jewelry chest. As she opened the lid of the four-foot tall, multi-drawered cherry cabinet she abruptly stopped speaking mid-sentence. The chest was tinkling out a musical tune. Anna began crying uncontrollably, but at the same time . . . smiling. It was not a cry of desolation, but of joy. Sobs were mixed with laughter!

         “What is it, Grandma? What’s the matter?”

         “Nothing, child. Your grandfather just told me everything was going to be OK!”

         “What do you mean, Grandma?”

         “Do you hear that tune the jewelry chest is playing? That’s a song that was sung at our wedding. It’s “One Hand, One Heart” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. That was a popular musical back in the 1960s when we married.

         “Twenty-five years later, Sam had this beautiful jewelry chest hand-crafted for me as a Silver Anniversary present. He had the craftsman put a music box cylinder in it that played this song . . . our song! Unfortunately, about a year after he gave me the gift, the music box feature stopped working. He said the wooden dowel rod that was on a spring and moved as the top of the cabinet was opened, had warped and wouldn’t move to turn the music box on. He kept saying he would fix it, but never got around to it.

         “Just now, as I opened the top, the music began playing for the first time in 30-some-odd years.

         “Thank you, Sam! Thank you, darling! As the song says, even death won’t part us now!”

June 14, 2024 18:34

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1 comment

00:34 Jun 27, 2024

This is amazingly captivating- I love the use of your descriptive language!


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