: All references to X-Men: Evolution belong to Marvel, Stan Lee, and whoever else the show belongs to. The only things I own are the original characters – Susan McGee, Lizzie Xavier, and James and Rachel Michaels.Summary
: How do you say good-bye to someone you love?Rating
: PG for angstSeries?
: Yes, first of my “Lost and Found” series.Author’s note: A little forewarning before you read this story. There is a portion of a Christian funeral service in this story. I am a Christian, and it is the only type of service that I know. I am not trying to be preachy in writing this story – it was something that I wanted to include in “Lost and Found” but I cannot seem to find a good way to work in, so I decided to write it as a separate story. If this offends you, I’m sorry, but this story needed to be written, and I had to use what I know. Please do not send me flames regarding my choice of services, or claiming that this goes completely against X-Men canon.
A great deal of the back story for “Lost and Found” was invented by me, solely for the purposes of that story, although I did draw on the comics for some of it. I did research to try and see if there was any specific mention of Charles’ personal beliefs, but I couldn’t find anything definitive one way or another, so this is another part of his “back story” that I am fudging for the purposes of my own story. It will not make a major appearance in “Lost and Found”.
“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”
-William ShakespeareBayville, New York…November 23, 1981
Charles looked at himself in the mirror above his dresser, checking his appearance. Out of habit, his hands rose to adjust the black tie he wore, and to smooth the collar of his black shirt. But it was only a delaying tactic, a refuge of the familiar, to prevent what had to come.
The neat black suit that he wore made him look dignified, as he had intended it to, but his eyes were haunted and he had dark circles forming beneath them. His face was pale and haggard-looking, testament to the recent sleepless nights that had been afflicting him, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he wanted to look presentable, he’d have a three-day’s growth of beard on his face.
A gentle tapping came from the door and he looked past his reflection to see Susan standing in the doorway. She was also dressed all in black – a knee-length sheath dress, low black heels, black stockings, and a black silk scarf around her waist like a belt. Around her neck she wore a simple gold necklace, and she had small gold studs in her ears. Her make-up was minimal and refined, and her thick, wavy brown hair had been pulled up into an elegant chignon.
“Charles? It’s time to leave. The viewing will start in about forty-five minutes.”
“Thank you, Susan,” Charles replied softly. He honestly didn’t know if he would have made it through the last four days if it wasn’t for his wife’s best friend. Even though her own grief had to be just as intense as his, she hadn’t hesitated to drop everything to be there for him.
He looked at himself one more time in the mirror, knowing that he couldn’t put it off any longer. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, it was time to leave…time to start finding a way to say good-bye, even though he felt that ripping his own heart out would be easier and less painful in the long-term.
It certainly couldn’t be any worse.
He rested his hand on the control stick of his wheelchair and gently turned away from the mirror, navigating to where Susan was waiting for him at the door. She moved out of the way to give him room to exit, before reaching behind him and pulling the door closed.
“James and Rachel are waiting downstairs, and Moira said she’d meet us at the funeral home,” she told him quietly. “The car is waiting out front.”
Charles only nodded and turned towards the end of the hallway. At the far end was the elevator that would take him down to the main level of his mansion. He didn’t trust himself to say anything right now…not when he was holding onto his control by a hair. He was going to get through this with dignity and respect – and he couldn’t do that by breaking down in front of Susan or his in-laws.
Susan fell into step beside him and walked with him to the elevator. There were no words between them, because they didn’t need them. They both knew what the other was feeling. They had both loved Lizzie, and they didn’t need to commiserate in their grief through words.
Lizzie’s parents were waiting in the foyer for them, and just like Charles and Susan, they were dressed all in black. As they entered the room, Rachel stepped forward, towards her son-in-law, and reached out to embrace him. He permitted it for a moment before he pulled back. Her gentle caring and love was almost enough to undo him. He could not – would not – dishonor Lizzie by breaking into tears in front of her parents and best friend. He was going to be strong for her.
“Everything will be all right, Charles,” Rachel told him quietly as she studied him. She and James had loved Charles from the first time they had met him, when Lizzie had introduced him. It had been obvious that the younger man had been – and still was – deeply in love with their daughter, and they had held no objections when he had asked Lizzie to marry him two years later.
Charles only nodded, his normally bright blue eyes dull and hollow in his pale, grieving face. Lizzie’s death in childbirth had hit them all hard, but Rachel wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Charles looked to be pining himself to death after her.
“We should probably be going,” Lizzie’s father, James, said as he took his wife’s arm and started to lead her towards the door. It was still a shock to have received Charles’ call four days ago and to have learned about the birth of their granddaughter and the death of their daughter.
Slowly, they made their way out to the black limousine. There was a short delay while they got Charles settled and his wheelchair stored in the trunk, but they finally pulled away from the mansion, around the circle drive and out the gates, heading for town and the funeral home. They’d be coming back later for the burial, since Charles had insisted on burying his wife in the family cemetery on his property. But now it was time for the viewing and the memorial.
Charles entered the funeral home slowly. It was the first time that he’d been here, since he’d been spending all of his time at the hospital with his newborn daughter. James and Rachel had stepped up to arrange their daughter’s funeral so that he could be with his daughter.
A man met them at the door and greeted them quietly. “Are you here for the Xavier service?”
Charles nodded slowly. “I’m Charles Xavier, Lizzie’s husband.”
“I am terribly sorry for your loss, Mr. Xavier,” the man said sincerely. “I’m Mr. Greene, the director. Everything has been prepared, and we’re ready to begin the viewing in fifteen minutes. Would you like a few minutes alone?”
Charles nodded again. This was such a nightmare. He and Lizzie had only been married for a year and a half – how could he be burying her already? We were supposed to grow old together, Lizzie. I shouldn’t have to say goodbye to you now!
Mr. Greene led them down a hallway to a small chapel where he unlocked the door and allowed them to enter before quietly closing the door behind them so they could be alone until the viewing was open to the public. The room was decorated in warm colors with highly polished wood. Up at the front of the room, there was a raised platform and an open coffin.
Charles froze at the sight for several seconds. Rachel and James moved up to the front of the room to their daughter’s coffin, but Susan hung back with him. Deep pain filled him…he still couldn’t believe that this was happening. Somehow, he managed to move forward, up to where the coffin rested, and Susan followed him without saying anything.
Lizzie lay in the coffin, her long blonde hair spread out on the pillow below her head. She wore a beautiful floral-print dress, and her hands had been gracefully folded over her waist, where she held a bouquet of white lilies and roses. She looked as if she was simply sleeping, her features serene and her green eyes closed. She was beautiful and perfect, and sweet – just as she had always been.
Charles reached out and gently rested his hand on her cheek, pulling back sharply at the hardness of her skin. Lizzie had always been soft and warm, not cold and hard. It was that one, gentle touch that told him that this was no nightmare. Lizzie was dead, and she wasn’t going to simply wake up at his touch.
He wanted to cry, wanted to rail at God or whatever higher powers might exist for doing this to him. Lizzie had been the one person that he had been able to open himself up to, the one person that he loved, and now she was gone. Why? Why did you have to be taken from me, Lizzie?
But he couldn’t do it. He was going to remain strong for her.
Susan watched Charles closely. Although most people wouldn’t notice, she knew Charles well enough to know that he was barely holding himself in control. They’d been friends ever since their first biology class their freshman year of college, but she’d been Lizzie’s best friend for their whole lives. She’d been so happy to see Lizzie and Charles get together – and as Lizzie’s best friend, she felt that it was her responsibility to make sure that Charles got through this service, and that he would be all right. It was what Lizzie would want, since it was going to be up to him to raise their daughter.I’m so sorry, Liz. I did everything I could for you and I let you down. But I won’t let you down now. I will help Charles through this, and I will do everything in my power to make sure your daughter survives and thrives
, she silently pledged her friend.
“Miss McGee? It’s time for the service to begin. We’re ready when you are,” the funeral director said softly in her ear.
She thanked him and then stepped up to Charles and touched him lightly on the shoulder. “It’s time, Charles.”
Charles kept an impassive look on his face. It was hard, since Lizzie’s friends were continually filing past him, offering their condolences on their way up to the front of the room to pay their final respects at the sleek, polished coffin. Each whispered word grated on his nerves. He didn’t want to be here, going through this emotional torment.
The strain that he’d been under for the past four days had been taxing his telepathic powers to their absolute limit. His shields were weak and patched together, reflecting the stress, even though he was the only one aware of it. It was only long years of practice and an iron will that was allowing him to maintain any shield at all. If he gave in – if he lost control of his shield, he would either be bombarded by the thoughts of the people around him, or his powerful mind would assault anyone in his vicinity – and there was no way to know which would occur.
Weak as his shields were, at the moment they were allowing him to maintain some
control over his thoughts and powers. But when Susan touched his shoulder to get his attention, the contact allowed her thoughts to leak right past his shields.Oh Charles, I wish there was something more I could do. I hate seeing you suffer like this.
Aloud all she said was “It’s time.” The pure friendship and compassion in her voice and her thoughts was the straw that broke the camel’s back, metaphorically speaking. All the grief and tears he’d be struggling to repress burst free and he couldn’t remain strong and stoic any longer.
His tears were nearly blinding him as he groped for the control stick on the arm of his chair and turned, fleeing the small room where Lizzie’s friends and family waited to say good-bye. He didn’t know where he was going; he just had to get away.Lizzie…oh Lizzie…why did this have to happen to you when everything was going so well for once?
Susan didn’t know what to do when Charles suddenly bolted for the door as fast as his chair could take him. It was a reaction that she had not expected at all, and for a moment she hesitated, wondering if she should go after him or not.
Over the last thirteen years that she had known Charles, she had come to realize that he was a very private person. A born academic, he spent a great deal of his time thinking about his research and experiments. When they had first met, he had been friendly enough, although other than admitting that he was an orphan, he’d been reluctant to discuss his past with either her or Lizzie.
Over the years he had dropped a few tidbits of information here and there, such as admitting that he’d also had a stepfather, who had died a few years after his mother. She didn’t believe that any of his parents had been the type to be abusive – it was more like he had simply gotten used to being alone and didn’t really know how to talk about things like memories and emotions.
Lizzie had accepted Charles’ quirks without argument or complaint, and Charles had always been loving and affectionate with her. He’d been a wonderful friend and an amazing tutor. His brilliance truly knew no bounds it seemed, but she was coming to realize that she really knew very little about him. And that hurt.
After hesitating for only another moment, she left the small chapel and followed her distraught friend. While she might not be able to do anything except try to comfort him, she hoped that he would appreciate her efforts. She wasn’t
Lizzie, and he was so strong-willed, she didn’t know how he would respond to her. Lizzie had never mentioned anything to her about how he responded to emotional stress like this, even during the time immediately following the accident that had crippled him – but she might have been respecting his privacy, so it was hard to know if he would welcome her comfort.
She followed him into a small, private room a short ways down the hallway. It seemed to be an area for grieving families to wait, given that it was furnished comfortably, but not quite as austerely as an office or public area might be. She paused in the doorway and just watched him for a moment.
Charles was bent over, his face buried in his hands, crying. No, not just crying – those were heart-broken, heart-wrenching
, tears. His entire body was trembling from the force of the sobs, and he seemed to be completely oblivious to her presence.
She was already sorrowed over Lizzie’s death. Lizzie had been her best friend – they had been closer than sisters in some way. They had shared everything growing up – their secrets, their crushes, their hopes and dreams…everything. But now, looking at her best friend’s grieving husband, she realized that her sorrow didn’t even compare. His grief was so powerful, she could almost feel it impacting on her mind – it seemed to radiate off of him in waves, and she realized that her heart was breaking for him.
Moving forward slowly, so as not to startle him, she came up behind him and very carefully wrapped her arms around him as she had often seen Lizzie do after the accident that had confined him to a wheelchair. She bent down and gently rested her cheek against the top of his head. “Charles?”
He didn’t respond to her at all, but she continued to hold him and whisper softly to him. “Charles, it’s all right to cry. You’ve been so strong throughout all of this…it’s all right. Let it out.”
Lizzie…why did this happen? What went wrong? Everything was going so right, and we were happy. Why did you have to be taken from me?
Charles was completely lost in his grief. He had grown up alone for the most part. His father had died when he was nine years old, his mother had remarried a few months later, only to die barely over a year after his father, and then his step-father had died three years after that. His father’s money had allowed him to be raised comfortably, attending year-round boarding schools where his love of learning had been fostered to its fullest. But he had always been alone. He’d had friends who had respected him for his intelligence, team-mates who had admired his athletic ability, and professors who had encouraged his studies in almost every field imaginable.
But he’d had no one who was close to him in all that time. He wasn’t shy; he had always just been a bit of a loner when he wasn’t practicing with his team-mates. In high school and college, when they went to parties after a game, he would go along because it was expected of him, but he stayed back and drifted among the crowd. Girls and women had thrown themselves at him, ensuring that if he had chosen, he wouldn’t have had to go a single night without a date. But due to his telepathic powers – which had set him apart even more than his own personality, even though no one knew about them – he had known that the girls didn’t really care about him. They cared about his money, his popularity, and his status.
Lizzie and Susan had been the first real friends that he had, and he had appreciated it more than they had realized. Both of them had been kind, and had accepted him completely. There had never been jealousy from them, or a desire for his money or the status he could give them. Lizzie especially, had been unique. There had been such innocence about her – a bright, vibrant soul and mind that had touched his lonely heart deeply. It was one of the reasons that he had fallen in love with her so quickly. Even when the other women at the university had thrown themselves at him, she had never reacted with jealousy or possessiveness. She had simply been herself, ignoring what other people thought about her and going about her own business. She had seen everything with such hope and tried to see the good in everything and everyone around her, even when they had lashed out at her.
Now that bright, vibrant soul was gone, and she wouldn’t be coming back. He truly felt like he was missing half of himself. She had stood beside him through everything, taught him how to love, and healed the lonely place in his heart that had come from being raised alone. He had learned to be self-reliant early in his life – she had taught him that it was all right to rely on other people. When he had been crippled only seven short months ago, she had been his rock. He would never have made it through that first month without her love, compassion, and support.
He had been trying to hold in his tears, hold in his grief, to be strong for her, the way she had taught him to be. It was the least he could do for her, but he had failed miserably. He missed her more than he could have believed before experiencing it. She had become such an integral part of his life; he honestly didn’t know how he could continue without her.
Even though he felt like the tears and the grief would never end, it slowly dawned on him that Susan was behind him, holding him and offering her support, just as Lizzie would have done. Susan and Lizzie were very much alike, but there was a distance to Susan’s embrace that hadn’t been in Lizzie’s. And that too, was very like Susan. She had seen the way that he and Lizzie had both been interested when they had met and begun dating, and she had never done anything to put herself between them, although Charles knew that she had found him attractive as well. But she had never once complained or done anything to sabotage his relationship with Lizzie – in fact, she had encouraged it.
Now, here she was again, despite her own grief, trying to comfort him in the only way she could think of. Her quiet words were slowly piercing the wracking sobs and the pain in his chest from all of the pent-up emotion that he had been fighting back for the last four days.
“It’s all right, Charles…I’m here for you. Just let it out. You don’t have to be strong all the time.”
It seemed to take a small eternity, but finally his tears slowed. Throughout it all, Susan held him and did her best to comfort him. It wasn’t the same as Lizzie’s gentle comfort, but it was close – and somehow, it did soothe some of the pain. It didn’t soothe all of it, especially not the most painful part – the fact that he would never see his wife again – but it did soothe the part that made him believe that he was alone again. Susan wasn’t going to abandon him just because Lizzie was dead. She had proved that much already in the last four days since Lizzie’s death.
Still aching inside, he slowly sat up. As he did, Susan pulled back and released him, moving to kneel in front of him. “Are you all right, Charles?” she asked him softly, her brown eyes filled with compassion.
He nodded and reached into his jacket pocket for a handkerchief. His hand was shaking so hard that at first he couldn’t grasp it. After a moment’s fumbling, he got his fingers on it and pulled it out. His hand was still trembling as he used it to dry his eyes, and as he did he turned his head so that he was looking away from Susan. “I’m sorry, Susan.”
She looked stunned at the apology. “For what?”
“For….this.” He gestured around the room and at himself, unable to put it into words, his embarrassment was so deep. He’d sworn to himself that he wouldn’t do this; that he wouldn’t break down in front of Lizzie’s family and friends.
“I know you’re a brilliant man, Charles, so don’t be an idiot. No one would blame you for what happened, and you have nothing to be embarrassed about,” she told him firmly, reaching out and catching his chin so that she could force him to look at her. “You can’t be strong all the time, and there’s no shame in crying at a funeral, especially not your wife’s funeral.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but she didn’t let him. “Don’t apologize for feeling sad, Charles. It’s completely understandable.” She took the handkerchief from him and gently used a corner of it to wipe at a place that he had missed. “Are you ready to go back now?”
He froze, something inside him shrinking at the thought. “I – I don’t know if I can, Susan. If I do…it’ll make all of this real.” He felt moisture gathering in his eyes again, but he stubbornly forced the tears back. “Lizzie…Susan, I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”
“You’ll survive, Charles, and you’ll thrive. For your daughter’s sake. It’s what Lizzie would want. She was taken before her time, and we will always miss her. But we don’t have to remember her with grief.”
He shook his head. “You would think that I would be better at this, after losing my parents…but this was my wife
. The woman I loved more than anything on this earth.”
“I know, Charles. It’s not the same thing,” Susan’s voice was still soft. “But you won’t be alone, I swear it. Moira and I will be here for you as long as you need us, and so will Lizzie’s parents. You’re not going to have to fend for yourself. And wherever Lizzie is, she’s in a better place. You will
see her again someday, I know it.”
Charles wished he could have her faith and her certainty. But he appreciated the effort that she was making to try to comfort him, although he suspected that nothing could ever truly comfort him again. There had just been so much upheaval in his life, and especially in recent months. There was only so much that one person could take, and he knew he had reached his limit.
But it was time to pull himself together. Lizzie’s friends and family were still waiting to say their final good-byes, and it wasn’t fair to keep them waiting while he gave in to his self-pity. He took his handkerchief back from Susan and tucked it back into his jacket. “Thank you, Susan,” he said in barely more than a whisper as he squeezed her hand once.
She laid her hand on his shoulder as he turned his chair to face the door. “I’ll be right beside you, the whole way, Charles. I promise.”
“God, the generations rise and pass away before you. You are the strength of those who labor; you are the rest of the blessed dead. We rejoice in the company of your saints. We remember all who have lived in faith, all who have peacefully died, and especially those most dear to us who rest in you. Give us in time our portion with those who have trusted, in you and have striven to do your holy will. To your name, with the Church on earth and the Church in heaven, we ascribe all honor and glory, now and forever.”
Charles listened to the service dully. He had never been particularly religious, but Lizzie had grown up in a religious household. She’d been a scientist, yes, but she had also had faith. For the past four days, he’d been too bereaved to even think about planning the memorial service and burial, so when Lizzie’s parents had offered to make the arrangements, he had agreed without hesitation, grateful for their help. So it came as no surprise that her parents had chosen a religious service for their daughter.
Susan was sitting on his right, just as she had promised. Lizzie’s parents were sitting next to her, and at the far end of the row of seats was Moira MacTaggert, who had flown down from Scotland to help in whatever way she could. She and Lizzie had become friends when Charles was studying for his second doctorate. Moira had studied with them quite often, since her field was also genetics, and there had been many evenings when he and Lizzie had gone out to movies or plays with Susan, Moira, and their dates and they had all become fast friends.
Susan moved her hand to rest on top of his and she squeezed it reassuringly, glancing out of the corner of her eye at him. He nodded slightly, letting her know that he was all right for the moment.
The minister closed the Bible he was holding and looked out at the assembled mourners. “At this time, at the request of Elizabeth’s family, I would like to open the floor to anyone who would like to come forward and share their memories of Elizabeth before the eulogy is given by her husband, Doctor Charles Xavier.”
Charles’ heart clenched again at the thought of the eulogy. He didn’t want to do this, but he knew that it would be expected of him. He had no idea what he should say that would describe what a bright, vibrant woman Lizzie had been and how much he loved her. He didn’t even know if he could hold it together for that long. For the moment, he had cried himself out, but his telepathic shields were still weak and were beginning to fluctuate. He needed to get away from all of the grief around him, to get somewhere where he could be alone and secure and where he could drop his shields without worrying about his powers going out of control and hurting someone.
A few people from the crowd stepped forward and spoke for a short time about Lizzie. Three of them were her patients, and two others were doctors that she had done her internship and residency with. They all spoke about Lizzie’s love for others, about her joy and her passion for medicine. The two doctors mentioned specific events when Lizzie had reached out to a frightened, hurting child and soothed him, or made a little girl laugh so that she didn’t pay attention to a shot. They all spoke of her love for children, and how happy she had been when she had learned that she would have one of her own.
As the last person sat down, Susan stood up and walked to the podium. She smiled weakly out at everyone. “My name is Susan McGee. I have known Lizzie for my entire life – she was my best friend growing up, and she was the closest thing I ever had to a sister. The two of us were practically inseparable, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we look nothing alike, I would almost be willing to swear that we were twins who had somehow been separated at birth.”
That got a small laugh from the assembly. Susan glanced down at him and then smiled again. “I don’t think that there are any words that can describe just how truly remarkable Lizzie was. Some of you have touched on it – her care for her patients, her passion for medicine, her sweet nature, and her joyful spirit. But those are just words, and I don’t believe that they truly describe Lizzie. While they are all true, Lizzie was so much more than that. She was unique, and beautiful in every way. Everyone she came into contact with, she touched. Her heart and her passion stretched out and impacted everyone – and no one was left unchanged by her. What I find saddest about this day is not the fact that she is gone – even though I have lost my best friend – it is the fact that there are now other people in this world who will never have the opportunity to know just how amazing she was, and who will never be touched by Lizzie’s kind, gentle, loving soul – most especially her little girl. Lizzie lost her life bringing her daughter into the world, but I know that if she’d had to choose between her daughter’s life and her own, she would have chosen her daughter every single time. Lizzie has gone before her time, and she will be missed, but I know that she is in a better, happier place – and because of her, a new, beautiful life has been born and I will do everything I can to make sure that her daughter knows just how special and amazing her mother was.”
Charles felt tears streaming down his cheeks again at Susan’s heartfelt words. As Susan came and sat down, and no one else made a move to go up to the podium, he realized that it was time for him to give the eulogy, but for a moment he couldn’t make himself move. He couldn’t go up there with tears streaming down his cheeks – it would make this nightmare real, and he just couldn’t do it. He was hoping and praying that at any moment he would wake up in his own bed and find out that this had simply been a nightmare.
“Charles?” Susan leaned over to whisper. “It’s all right. If you can’t do it, no one will say anything.”But I’ll know. I’ll know that I failed to speak, to honor the woman that I love. I have to do this, for her.
“I’m all right, Susan,” he choked out, before he steered his chair to the podium.
The director had been waiting for this and now stepped out and removed the microphone from its stand and handed it to him, so that he wouldn’t have to fumble for it. Charles nodded in thanks, wishing that the tears would stop – but at least he wasn’t sobbing.
He cleared his throat softly, but his voice was still rough when he began to speak. “Thank you all for coming. It means a great deal to me to know that you share in some of my grief over Lizzie’s passing. I don’t know what I can say – like Susan, I believe that there are no real words that can describe just how amazing my wife was. I consider myself to be the most fortunate man alive to have known and shared her love – but compared to everything that she did and gave to me, my love is a poor second place. Lizzie was the most amazing person I have ever known. She was my rock, and she taught me so much.”
He swallowed, feeling his throat tightening, but he forced himself to continue. “Learning has always been my life – I buried myself in my school books and my research for years before I met her, but it was Lizzie who taught me the important things – love, joy in another’s company, and acceptance. On the day I learned that I was going to be confined to this wheelchair for the rest of my life, she stood fast beside me and showed me that it was all right to grieve for what I lost, but that as long as I held my head high and proud, I hadn’t lost anything vital. I’m a better person because of Lizzie. She gave me so much, and in her death she gave me the most wonderful and beautiful gift in the world – our daughter. While I wish that Lizzie could be here to raise her, I know that isn’t possible. But most importantly, I will make sure that my daughter knows how much Lizzie loved her, even though they never met.”
His voice was starting to choke up again, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to manage much more. “I – I will always remember you, Lizzie. I know you’re happy wherever you are, and if you can see us, know that I am glad to have known and loved you – and thank you for everything.”
The minister came forward again and took the microphone from him, and Charles quickly moved his chair out of the man’s way and returned to his place next to Susan. For a moment he had to rest his face in his hands again, and he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes in a desperate attempt to stem the tears.
“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, Elizabeth. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, and a lamb of your own flock. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”
“Let us go forth in peace,” the minister concluded.
“In the name of Christ, Amen,” finished the assembled mourners.
Now the funeral director stepped forward, along with the pallbearers. Quietly, they closed the open lid of the coffin and moved to their places to carry the coffin out to the waiting hearse that would take the procession back to Charles’ estate, where Lizzie would be laid to rest in the small family cemetery at the back of the property.
Slowly, the coffin was escorted out of the funeral home, and Charles, Susan, Moira, and Lizzie’s parents followed behind the procession. As they left the room, the other mourners also began to follow them out. Charles watched as Lizzie’s coffin was loaded into the hearse before he headed for the car that would take them back to his home for the burial.
The drive back through the city to his estate was familiar, but seemed much shorter than usual – and at the same time, endless. With each mile between the funeral home and his home, Charles knew that they were getting closer to the place where he would have to leave Lizzie forever. The pressure and the pain in his heart were straining his control to the absolute limit. The silence inside the car wasn’t helping either.
But finally they arrived at the estate and Charles directed the driver to go around the house to a small, private gate at the rear of the property. There was no direct route to the cemetery from the front of the house, so a back gate had been installed closer to the plot when the estate had first been built.
As they pulled to a stop, the hearse stopped just behind them and while Charles was getting into his wheelchair from the car, the pallbearers removed Lizzie’s coffin from the car and prepared to carry it to the gravesite that Charles had selected two days previous. The grave was already dug, and slowly the mourners lined up behind the casket as it was escorted to its final resting place.
Once the casket was in place, in preparation to be lowered, and everyone was assembled, the minister who had come with them from the funeral home opened his Bible again and began to read. “Almighty God, by the death and burial of Jesus, your anointed, you have destroyed death and sanctified the graves of all your saints. Keep our sister whose body we now lay to rest, in the company of all your saints and, at the last, raise her up to share with all your faithful people the endless joy and peace won through the glorious resurrection of Christ out Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”Destroyed death?
Charles thought bitterly. If that was true, then why did my parents have to die? Why did Lizzie have to die?
He had never understood how anyone could have faith in something that didn’t make sense. He and Lizzie had debated the topic endlessly, but neither of them had ever been able to sway the other. Lizzie clung to the faith that she had grown up with, but acknowledged that science also had a place in the world, whereas Charles believed simply in science. However, he couldn’t deny his in-laws’ wish to bury their daughter according to their faith and hers.
The service continued as the minister conducted them through a lesson from the Bible he carried, before he signaled the funeral attendants to begin lowering the casket into the ground. “In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through out Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to almighty God our sister, Elizabeth, and we commit her body to the deep, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Christ was the first to rise from the dead, and we know that he will raise up our mortal bodies to be like his in glory. We commend our sister to the Lord: May the Lord receive her into his peace and raise her up on the last day. Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.”
Charles couldn’t take his eyes off the casket as his wife was slowly lowered into the ground. The minister’s words were a buzzing in the back of his mind, but the man could have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for all he cared. Lizzie! Please, let this all be a bad dream!
“Let us go in peace.”
As the mourners slowly left the graveside, Charles remained sitting there, watching as the grave was slowly filled in. The headstone that had been ordered would be delivered the next day and put into place. In the meantime, only the freshly turned earth served as a marker that his beloved wife was buried there, beneath the weeping willow tree.
Susan came up and told him that she, Moira, and his in-laws were going to head back to the mansion to change and start working on a meal from the multitude of meals that had been delivered over the last few days from Lizzie’s friends. He only nodded, barely registering her comment. He wasn’t hungry – he hadn’t been since he’d learned that his wife was dead. Every time he tried to eat, mostly to humor Susan, the food seemed to turn to ash in his mouth. Sleeping was all but impossible since Lizzie wasn’t there beside him. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her. If he was the type of person who believed in the supernatural, he’d almost be willing to swear that she was haunting him – but that idea was ludicrous.
Lizzie had been his other half, and he honestly didn’t know how to go on without her. He would, because he wouldn’t leave his daughter alone in the world – not after losing his wife to gain her. But he didn’t know how.
But somehow, he’d have to find the strength. For his daughter. It was what Lizzie would want, so it was what he would do.
But it wouldn’t be easy.
“Good-bye, Lizzie,” he breathed. “I love you.”
Then, with a heavy heart, he turned away from the fresh grave.Don't forget to leave me a happy review!