I had a dream last night about my father’s funeral.
It is a luminous day, much like the Easter Sundays
from my childhood memories.
Dozens of white chairs cover the grave-lawn.
Black veils cascade themselves down the women’s faces-
swaying dolefully back and forth with
the delicate push of broken breaths.
Outside of the mausoleum, my uncle is ready
to read the letter to his brother.
He is wearing a familiar black suit and smells like after-shave.
It’s windy outside, so I offer to hold the booklet of dedications.
He tells me, “I’ll need your help to get through this.”
I touch his shoulder and inch closer to him.
My uncle begins to read.
His voice is loud and strong.
The family is standing around him.
As I flip the page, I look outward to the crowd of people
and stare in amazement at all of them that came.
My uncle’s voice weakens.
I notice that he cannot continue.
I bring the booklet to my eyes and read the
remaining dedications to my father.
(I am wearing a black dress that would have made him proud
of his beautiful, grown-up daughter.)
I realize that I am just reading words on a sheet.
They are dry, mechanical, forced.
I look towards the casket and feel alone.
Was he even listening now?
Who were all of these people?
When I was a child,
my grandparents and I would visit his grave
every Sunday. I would sit by the olive tree with my
children’s book of poetry and read out loud
to my father all of my favorite excerpts.
I felt him sitting next to me, separated
only by a thin film of dimension.
I’d tell him all about school, my dogs, my
first lost tooth, how I was scared to ride my bike,
how I wanted to play catch with him.
I’d ask him for advice and hold my breath to
see if I could hear him faintly whispering back to me.
And even though I had never heard his voice,
I knew he was there, screaming, trying.
Now, in this dream, I stood by his casket.
The shell was empty. He was gone.
Slowly, one by one, the family disappeared.
I was left with an empty casket.