Apr. 1st, 2007

stbethadettes: (front of St. Bernadette's)
When I was about fifteen or sixteen, a colleague of my dad's died. I remember sitting behind this man's family with my mom and dad to my left, her hand resting on his knee in affection or comfort or both.

The priest's voice was low and monotonous and broken occasionally by a sniffle from one of the rows in front of us, and my eyes wandered over the marbled floor and polished pews and glittering candelabra. The stained glass windows were deep greens and jewel-like blues and scandalizing scarlets; the dark wood of the archways and door frames was carved with intricate curlicues. Every cross gleamed. Rows of candles flickered.

When the smell of incense wafted over me, I thought about what a decadent way to mourn it all was.

It was ritual and routine and nothing out of the ordinary, but something about it didn't sit right with me.

I never thought I'd mourn every guy I'd ever known -- and plenty I hadn't -- in a church across the country about ten years later. It wasn't many of those guys who got so elaborate a burial, much less an actual funeral. When I buried remains from the crash site in that churchyard, I didn't wear ceremonial robes and read from the Bible. There wouldn't have been any point in incense or reading from Scripture. The men who died and the women I didn't save deserved more than what they got, and I can't say I paused over each grave for a moment of prayerful silence (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) as much as to rest on my shovel for a minute, tired and dirty and pink from spending hours upon hours out there in the sun.

(I had dirt under my fingernails for weeks, but I never once resented it.)

I tended those graves. It was just... what I could do.

I stayed positive whenever I talked to anyone about the vaccine, about Vlad. Especially around Ciba. But that didn't mean I wasn't invaded by a healthy amount of anxious dread the afternoon Heidi told us they'd finished their work on the vaccine. They expected it to work; they were optimistic. They made sure Ciba knew it, and she talked positive, too, but she was scared. I could see it in her eyes. And I couldn't blame her.

One of the last things I wanted to even imagine doing was digging a goddamn grave for little Vlad.

Fortunately, Yorick's doctor friend and the Hartles do good work.

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stbethadettes

January 2009

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