She stood solemnly at the graveside. A single tear ran down her cheek. A man and a woman stood either side of her, and a younger man opposite. They all looked down at the expensive coffin being lowered in to their family plot. A few other mourners were scattered around; they formed a small, sad crowd, as the priest said the familiar burial prayer. But she barely heard the words as the coffin settled with an audible thump.
“… commit her body to the earth, for we are dust and unto dust we shall return..”
She looked around her. It was a warm, bright day in September, but there was an unusual wind – a hurricane was forecast. There were many head-stones here, and a few statues. Of angels mainly. Different colours but somehow the same hue. A few trees lined the perimeter fence, some bare, some evergreen. Beyond them the city buzzed – it went on with its day and didn’t notice anyone missing.
The woman next to her was wearing a hat that didn’t suit her. It kept catching the breeze and the woman’s gloved hand caught it each time. It was annoying. She should have pinned it or something. She shivered as a gust blew by them and then smiled inwardly. How was it she came to be here? How was it that it all went so well? Was it her own cleverness, or was it luck?
“…the Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Amen”, she joined in.
Amen indeed, she thought to herself. The relief was immense. The day after it happened, it flooded through her. How was it she had become capable of such a thing? And now, it was a huge secret. But she had always been good at keeping secrets. It was over now. She could get on with her life.
“The Lord be with you.”
“And with your spirit.” everyone replied together.
Another gust. She felt it curl around her stockings. The woman next to her snatched at her hat.
“God of the living and the dead, accept our prayers for those who have died in Christ.”
She wiped away the tear. The young man opposite caught her eye and sympathetically smiled. She smiled back in a way that said ‘yes, I’m ok, thanks’.
And she was ok.
“Let us pray.”
They bowed their heads, some held hands and some sniffed as they all solemnly recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Her mouth moved as she mumbled the words but her thoughts were still elsewhere.
It was thrilling what had happened. And justifiable. She wondered if she could do it again. But the need would never arise, of course. She now understood how others could do it. This criminal act. How other people could get away with it. If she could do it, anyone could. How many people could be getting away with it right now? Thousands, millions? Was the city beleaguered with people crawling around getting away with their sins?
“Gracious Lord, forgive the sins of those who have died in Christ.”
It was easier than she thought. That’s what surprised her the most. It was just a matter of thinking it through carefully. Planning well. Did this make her a bad person? She was still the same inside. She was still capable of love, big love, and still wanted to be loved in return. Isn’t that what life is all about – what everyone wants? And she felt more… worthy… or worldly, perhaps that was a more appropriate word. She felt more ‘something’ anyway, and that could only be a good thing. To feel more. To be more understanding of other people, and why they do things. Yes, she was still a good person – in fact a better person. Its not as if she didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. What she did was wrong, but also right. She had righted the wrong. It felt good.
“Kindle in our hearts a longing for heaven.”
There was a sudden movement from the woman next to her as her hat actually blew off. The woman made a quiet apology as she ran gracefully to the point where it had landed. The wind allowed it to stay there, and she picked it up, before returning to her place in time for the next Amen.
“Lord, have mercy.”
Would anyone else forgive her if they found out? Or just God?
She looked for the words in her booklet and joined in again: “…raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness…”
Righteousness? What is righteousness, really? A state of mind? A quality? A knowledge that one is morally correct? What she’d done was morally correct, even though it could be termed bad. So it was righteous. She stood a little straighter. A small movement. Yes, it was righteous. She was righteous.
“May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ console you and gently wipe every tear from your eyes. Amen.”
“Amen” she repeated. Amen indeed.