Muted colors blended in quiet dignity. I touched the soft velvet curtains covering the closed windows in deep forest hues. Standing, then reaching to straighten a crooked picture of some religious significance, I could feel the heated air gathered near the ceiling: Stagnant, still, beyond the reach of the quietly shuffling bodies below.
Bodies. Living, breathing bodies showing no signs of life beyond that of quiet tearful-ness. I found myself wishing that someone would open a window. Moving the heavy curtain aside, I could see that the windows were sealed shut: To keep out sounds of life? A small child of perhaps six was riding her bike with a friend. I could see her laughing, but memory provided the sound. She fell and was lying in the street, crying. I was too far away to see the tears and yet, without the accompanying sounds, she looked no different. Yet I knew the difference.
Two separate worlds: Outside, inside; so quiet. Black-clothed bodies murmured: The conversation was no less relieved than by the occasional flash of a white cuff or silken hanky. There was no laughter, no flash of bright memory. No sign of the passion that had created the nine children, twenty-seven grandchildren and fifty some odd great-grandchildren.
Possibly the least dead body here was that of the deceased. She, at the grand and glorious age of ninety-seven looked several decades younger: caught in an unguarded moment; having fallen asleep with her glasses still perched on the end of her nose.
Dear Grandmother Annie would have far rather been wearing her favorite jeans with the hole in the knee and her long dead husband's flannel shirt than the frilly lace and ruffled dress some well-intentioned relative had dressed her in. I remembered looking at a magazine with her once and upon seeing a similar dress, hearing her remark that she wouldn't be caught dead in a dress like that.
You couldn't even hear anyone walking in here. The thick, sink-to-your- ankles, deep mulberry carpet muffled sound: catching it and dragging it off; whimpering.
Organ music groaned in the background as people shuffled into the appropriate places for the service. Only slightly louder than the discrete snuffling, was the melodious murmuring of someone who obviously didn't even know her, saying things to comfort those left behind; empty, lifeless platitudes droning on, dragging us all into a deathly sleep-like trance.
Standing back near the window, I could hear Annie's voice once more; fighting to be heard and then ringing loud and clear and most of all: Alive!
"It's a beautiful day. Go on. Git! It's too nice a day to be muddling around inside. Go on now. Outside! It's alive out there. Get out there and live. Breathe. Climb a tree. Pick some flowers! A person could die holed up in here...