|Excerpt from No Room For Doubt|
It was absurd that the sun was shining.
Jacque MacDonald stood by the mausoleum, surrounded by her loved ones. Her husband, Dennis, was there, along with her surviving daughter, Karen, and son-in-law, Cliff. Jessica was there also, Jacque’s beautiful three-year-old granddaughter. How much did Jessie, tapping her shiny new shoes, understand? How much did any of them understand? Of course Jessie thought her mother would be back soon. Didn’t they all cling to that fantasy? Call it denial. Call it desperation. But the thought that Debi would be among them again was more real than being without her.
Jacque’s body reverberated with a kind of palpable nothingness. How could emptiness be so filling? It overflowed, rippling out of her. It swallowed the mourners, the press, the cemetery. It ate up the whole world.
Five days ago Debi had been alive: a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. There were so many future possibilities for her. In one violent moment, they had evaporated.
Jacque couldn’t bring herself to think of the end of Debi’s life. She pushed it back down into the dull void. But even now she could feel the restlessness. The anger. Rage. It was coming. Her internal radar guaranteed a catastrophic storm headed her way. Would she be caught up in it? Would it leave her in ruins? Could she ever rebuild?
She held the small, ornate box in her hands. It was so light, yet it was the heaviest burden she had ever carried. This was all that remained of her firstborn. Debi’s life, her aspirations, her future—they were all ashes now. Drowned in blood, consumed by fire, and returned to the hands of the woman who had carried this child inside of her, who had walked the floors during the nights of colic and had slipped coins from the tooth fairy under her pillow.
Jacque’s thoughts drifted. She hated her dress. She’d bought it at the last minute because Debi’s sister had been adamant that everyone wear blue. It was, after all, Debi’s favorite color.
Jacque was aware of whispers, sobs, prayers. But none of it made any sense. She didn’t hear the ceremony. There must have been one. She vaguely remembered a priest taking the box from her, touching her gently as if he were taking the real Debi away from her. Someone else had done that days ago. The priest’s words were directed at her, but they were too far away for her to understand. They joined the pulsing nothingness, swirling away in the winds of the approaching storm.
Somewhere, another mother was burying her child. Everything around Jacque was a pantomime, but that other mother was real. If Jacque could, she would reach out and touch her.
The funeral service was over. People said their words to Jacque, hugged her and cried on her, not realizing she wasn’t there. Eventually she was alone. A ghost mother. Her eyes traced the lettering on the new bronze plaque: Deborah Anne Whitlock. Somewhere inside of her, thunder rolled.