The morning sun peeked past the curtains.
Alivia squeezed her eyes shut, rolled on her side and stared at the clock.
A couple different colored fluffy pillows surrounded her. Grandpa had helped pick them out for her room years ago.
She sat up in bed and paused for a brief moment realizing life wouldn’t be the same anymore. She squeezed her eyes tight before any tears broke through.
Her bedroom door opened. “Alivia, someone is here to see you.” The blankets were pulled back.
It was Fern.
Alivia sat up and through her arms around her.
Fern held her arms around Alivia.
“It’s my fault, Fern.”
“No its not.”
“I should have gone earlier to see him then he might still be alive.”
“Don’t blame yourself.”
They looked at each other.
“This is not your fault. We didn’t see it coming.”
Alivia covered her face with both hands and rubbed her eyes. “Did you just get here?”
“Yeah. Mom called me. Trying to book a flight right away was a pain in the ass.”
Alivia chuckled. “How long are you staying?”
“I have to go back as soon as the funeral is over.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Life’s not fair.”
After everybody ate breakfast Alivia, her mom and sister went to the funeral home to make funeral arrangements.
Alivia stayed out in the car. She didn’t want to go in. She would have to see grandpa in there anyways.
For the next couple of hours Alivia, her mom and Fern were making posters and gluing pictures on it. Each picture brought back memories. She could hear the laughter and the sound of water when the paint brushes were dipped in. The bright clumps of paint drew more attention. Fern’s voice encouraged her.
She set the pictures down and placed a hand to the side of her head then let a breath out.
Fern and her mother looked at each other then back at Alivia.
“I’m going to miss going fishing with him. I’m going to miss him fixing things around the house.
Fern didn’t say a word.
Alivia knew she had nothing to say. Since she left for collage and became a model, she hasn’t been much of him.
The doorbell rang.
Alivia got up and opened the door.
Lauretta and Skeeter were standing there with their parents. Skeeter’s dad Mike, Alivia’s mom’s younger brother, and his wife, Stacie.
Alivia noticed that Lauretta’s hair wasn’t blonde anymore or wavy; it was brunette with blonde highlights. She shook her head. “I knew you were going to change your hair.”
Lauretta and Alivia’s choice of style were similar, but Alivia really wasn’t into the high fashion and glamor like Lauretta. If they were seen on the street, people would know they were different from each other, but the close bond they share was no different.
Then she saw Skeeter. His hair looked the same color with brunette and a little bit of blonde mixed in it, spiked on top, crystal blue eyes and a lean body.
Alivia hugged them both. “I love you two so much!”
“We love you cuz,” Lauretta said.
Distraught with the loss of Grandpa, she still had the rest of the family, and especially the cousins. But without Grandpa, it just didn’t feel like a complete family anymore.
The next day, Alivia’s mom parked the car in the churches’ parking lot and turned the key. The motor died down and everybody got out.
A part of Alivia didn’t want to go in, but the others did, to say goodbye.
Across the lot, other family members showed up in their cars. Her aunts, uncles and cousins, she hadn’t seen in a while.
Alivia drew a deep breath in and let it out, then tipped her head down.
Her mom patted Alivia on the shoulder.
Fern stayed on her other side. “Come on, you can do it. If I can you can.”
Alivia had no choice so she walked up the stone steps and entered through the wooden doors.
To her left was a room with big wide swinging wooden doors.
As Alivia’s mom and Fern talked with family members, Alivia walked over toward the sliding doors. The gap was big enough to take a peek.
A darkness filled the room. A strip of light peered in where she stood. It shined off the top of the smooth wooden casket. It was closed for now. Grandpa always wanted a wooden casket. He told her that years ago, but she never liked to talk about it. Death and funeral homes wasn’t her favorite subject.
Flowers sat beside the casket along with a picture of Grandpa and the words, “In loving Memory of Quinn Henry McGala.” It sat to the side, along with plants and flowers in big and small pots and vases.
It became real to her for the first time, seeing the casket and all the flowers.
The lights turned on and the doors opened forcing Alivia to step back.
A woman in a nice black dress and shiny shoes stopped in front of her. “Can I help you?”
All Alivia could do was shake her head.
“Oh, I see, you’re the granddaughter that Quinn was close with.”
Alivia nodded, but no words came out.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” The lady walked past Alivia.
The family moved in the room where Alivia was standing.
Sad music filled the room and a fruity smell scented the air.
Alivia, her mom and sister sat in the front row. Along with Alivia’s mom and her brother and sister. Lauretta sat with her mom, as did Skeeter.
The funeral director entered the room and opened the casket.
Alivia caught a small glimpse of Grandpa’s face and nose. Tears burst from her eyes and traced down her cheeks. She covered her mouth and lowered her head.
Her mom wrapped both arms around her as Fern did too.
Family members got up to see Grandpa one last time, to say their goodbyes. They left a rose, or even gave him a kiss on the head or hand.
A woman walked over to Alivia with a red rose in her hand.
Alivia looked up and saw that it was Geena. The Liberian. She smiled softly and handed the rose to Alivia. She smiled back and said. “Thank you, Geena.”
Both girls hugged then separated.
It was nice of Geena to come to the funeral.
Alivia looked at her mom and shook her head.
Her mom nodded then handed her a rose and took the one that Geena had given her. “Go.” Her mom placed the rose in her hand.
Alivia stood up and walked the center of the steps leading to the casket. She held the red rose in her hand. Each second seemed to take forever. The closer she got, the harder it felt to breathe like the air was sucked right out of her.
Should she see him in the casket or walk away? Or behave like a seventeen-year-old?
Before she knew it, the open casket was right there. She never pictured Grandpa laying in a casket, let alone seeing it in real life.
Standing next to it, she saw that grandpa’s skin looked pale and his hair whiter than usual. That person laying there wasn’t him anymore. Just a body, a lifeless cold, lonely body in a wooden box. The only thing that seemed like it was grandpa was his shirt and jeans he wore all the time.
Her grip came loose from the rose and it dropped to the floor.
Whispers filled the entire room from behind her.
Alivia took a step back, away from the casket and turned around then ran down the aisle.
Her mom stood up and reached out toward her arm. “Alivia wait.”
A couple of the family members stood up, talking back and forth.
Alivia ran out of the room. Before she reached the doors, a pair of arms wrapped around her. Tears spilled out of her eyes and down her cheeks. She dropped to her knees and sobbed.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Fern whispered then moved her hair from her face. “You don’t have to run.”
A memory played in her head, of Alivia and her Grandpa making cookies in the kitchen. In her mind, pots and pans click together. Water ran from the faucet, flour on the floor and table. That was just last week when they were baking. But now she wouldn’t be at Grandpa’s making cookies with him anymore.
Once the memory faded, she tipped her head down and covered her eyes.
After the funeral, the family and the preacher arrived at the cemetery, the black hearse parked on the side of the path where cars drive through.
Alivia leaned to the window.
There were many different headstones. Some were brand new, some old and tipped over. Some were even lying flat on the ground.
Alivia, her mom and Fern followed the family where grandpa would be buried.
Alivia never thought to see Grandpa in the ground. In a deep, dark, lonely hole. A place he should not be.
As the preacher spoke about Grandpa and the life he had lived, Alivia relived some of her own memories.
Flashbacks trailed through her mind one after another. Her and grandpa fishing together at the lake and catching fish. The splashing of the water played in the back of her mind, hers and Grandpa’s voices laughing and having a good time together. Watching him build birdhouses in the shed behind the house; the sound of the saw cutting through wood and her laughter echoing through her mind. Cooking together in the kitchen from a young age through her teenage years. Grandpa reading a bedtime story before bed when she was little. It felt good to revisit those memories.
Lauretta touched her back and leaned her head against Alivia’s shoulder.
Tears released from her eyes and trailed down her cheeks.
When the preacher had finished speaking, the casket began to lower into the ground.
After saying their last goodbyes, family and friends left, but not everybody did. One person stayed behind to have her last moment.
She gazed down at the flowers scattered across the top of the casket.
The sun peeked out from behind the drifting clouds to change the mood. A fresh scent remained in the air as a cool breeze coasted by her skin.
Alivia stood by the edge of the hole and pulled a picture out of her pocket. It was her and Grandpa fishing by the lake. here would be no more pictures with him. No more fishing together. No more ice cream for the hot days in the summer. No more birdhouses being built in the shed.
Her eyes burned with tears and her throat swelled.
She stared at the picture one last time, then held it over the hole and let it go. It floated down and rested on top of the casket next to a couple red roses, Grandpa’s favorite flower.
“I love you, Grandpa.”
Off in the distance, something small and white fluttered.
A single white feather drifted across the fresh-cut green grass. A gust of wind blew it over the edge of the hole. It floated down and landed on top of the casket right next to the picture she had dropped.
Alivia’s mom and Fern waited by the car.
She released a breath and walked pass other headstones and stopped beside her mom and sister.
Before leaving, Alivia looked over her shoulder at Grandpa’s headstone. The feather thing was odd and something about it felt…she didn’t know and she shook the feeling away.