The following is a brief excerpt from my current WIP, Murder by Any Other Name. In our “My 500 Words” group today, we’ve been challenged to “show not tell,” in a piece of our writing. I’ve chosen the funeral scene from my story, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other group members. I do realize that I’m both showing and telling. 🙂
Richie’s funeral on Monday afternoon was as dramatic as I think a president’s would have been – the main difference being that there were no heads of state, no members of Congress, no celebrities in attendance. Just four hundred or so police officers from across the state and from surrounding states. Firefighters on their bright red trucks, EMTs driving a brightly colored mini-caravan of their own, and a DPS vehicle from every county in the state. Even with several officers riding in each vehicle, it made for a terribly long line of cars to wend their way from Justine and Richie’s church in Biloxi to the cemetery in Ocean Springs. I could only imagine what it looked like from above – a monstrous serpent swimming through the waters of the bay, shoving cars and people to left and right.
The service was as brief as it could have been, considering words were said by Richie’s commanding officer and a representative from the city, with Chief Sikes giving a brief eulogy. I don’t remember much of what he said, only the love and loss with which he said it.
Riding in the family car with Justine and Owen, and Mom and Dad, I felt so dreadfully alone. A year and a half ago Mark would have been here supporting me. I had asked him to ride with us today, but he insisted he drive his Escape. He was planning to drive me home afterward. I wondered how far away from me he was now, driving alone somewhere in this endless procession.
We crossed the two and a half mile long post-Katrina bridge and causeway over Biloxi Bay at just about three-thirty, and my eyes watered from the sparkling shards of sunlight on the gentle waves moving slowly out with the tide. All traffic stopped as our procession advanced: cars, delivery trucks, a limo from the Hard Rock, even a Greyhound bus. Peering out the darkened window of the “family car,” a shiny black limo, I saw many drivers outside their vehicles, hands over hearts in silent tribute. Looking to my right, I could see every single walker and jogger on the bridge’s footpath either in a similar pose or simply standing, hands at their sides, taking the time to show respect for a fallen officer.
Off to our right lay Front Beach, that unspoiled strip of sand where Richie and I had so often run. The beach always looked dismal when the tide was going out, despite the starkly beautiful homes that stood majestically on the bluffs across from the beach. Just to the right of the bridge was the Ocean Springs Yacht Club, with its squat square building propped on stilts so high there was hope it would survive any hurricane that attacked it. Its marine blue metal roof vied for attention with the waters of the bay, which could change from sea green to an almost midnight blue; today they had chosen blue, as a mark of respect for Richie, I thought dully.
As an officer killed in the line of duty, Richie received full military honors. Justine was given the flag which had been draped over his casket. I’d attended similar funerals but had never paid much attention to the precision with which the presentation of the flag had been carried out. As two of Richie’s fellow officers, Don Kingman and Joe Bledsoe, in dress uniforms of dark blue, and wearing white dress gloves, slowly and methodically removed the flag and made thirteen precise folds, tears streamed down my face, and when I looked around the circle of friends and co-workers surrounding us, I knew I wasn’t alone in my grief. Don made the final fold and tucked the last bit of flag inside, creating a neat triangular bundle to present to Justine.
Justine was a beautiful grieving widow; she was all in black, from her simple pumps to the black netting covering her head. Even though her face was shielded by the veil, I could see how pale her face was, how swollen her eyes, and I could see the trembling of her chin. Any crying was silent, however, just as mine was. Richie wouldn’t have been happy with an overt show of our grief, and we both knew it. Owen, bless him, held his mommy’s hand and patted her arm. The little guy seemed overwhelmed with all the flowers looking like a gigantic Hawaiian shirt, the American flag hugging the bronze casket, the mournful music. His eyes grew round and bright when the rifles fired; I don’t think any of us had thought to prepare him for that. When Justine turned to him and handed him the flag, he looked up at her with his solemn blue eyes so like his dad’s that it hurt my heart to look at him, and said in his whisper-soft four-year-old voice, “I’ll take care of you, Mommy.” It was the only time Justine sobbed aloud.
My own moment came when, after the plaintive skirl of bagpipes had drifted over the cemetery with the plaintive sounds of Amazing Grace, and after silence had fallen following the twenty-one gun salute, I heard Dispatch call over a nearby police car’s radio from Headquarters: “Dispatch to 2-5, come in 2-5… This is the last call for radio number 2-5. No response from Sgt. Richard McCallum. Radio number 2-5 is out of service. Rest in peace, our friend. The time is 3:45 p.m., June 8, 2013.” Richie’s number, being called for the last time, was just about more than I could bear. I buried my head in Daddy’s shoulder and sobbed quietly into his scratchy tweed jacket, as a single bugler off on a grassy hillock to one side played “Taps.”