We gathered together in our plain, small-town church for the funeral of my friend, Eric. We had to wait in a hall outside the room where Eric was lying in his coffin for some time, waiting for the room to open. Almost the whole town stood in the hall. I saw my neighbor, Mr. Crandle, leaning up against the wall, taking his dusty cowboy hat off to swat some manure off of his boot. Mr. Jackson, the town mechanic and bartender at the High Mountain Tavern and Sport Shop, was talking in whispered tones to his short, plump wife. I began to wonder if Mr. Jackson owned any other clothes besides the stained, blue overalls that he wore all of the time. The mayor, Bob "The Bobber" Thompson, was the best dressed of them all in his faded, brown, pin-striped suit. I began to wonder why he was known to all as "The Bobber." As I probed deeper into this question, I was awakened from my thoughts by the scuffling of feet and saw everyone entering the room. I stood outside for a long time, not wanting to see Eric in his final resting place, wanting to remember him alive.
As I entered the small, cramped room, some were trying to sing the hymn, "Father in Heaven, We Do Believe," while most wept, catching a final view of my friend before the oak coffin was closed and his earthly life was officially over. I was standing in the crowd, looking at Eric. He looked so peaceful, as if he was just sleeping and would wake up at any moment. The makeup on his face disturbed me. His skin was a bright peach color, his cheeks were pink, and his lips were full and red. He did not look like my friend, but like some sort of dead mime. His small, unmistakable smile eased my apprehensions, however, and the program went on.
Suddenly, the crowd seemed to part in slow motion and I saw the man in the black suit standing before the coffin. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, and yet he seemed somehow to be much older. Perhaps it was his dark eyes that seemed to sink into his pale face or his thin frame that seemed so frail. His hair looked the same as the first day I met him, combed sideways as if his mother still did it for him.