his face was pasty white

His face was pasty white—a mixture of no more life and thick face powder. And, for the exception of his heavily painted-on red cheeks and red lips, he looked as if he was fake—a mask made up of stone.
As I stood before the opened casket, I couldn’t comprehend that it was my father lying there. It didn’t look like him but more like a made-up mannequin in a store window. Even his hands looked fake, having been molded into a prayer position; almost as if they were made of plaster— rock hard with not even the slightest hint of blood flowing through them.
Wrapped around his hands were rosary beads. It made him look as though he had fallen asleep while he was in the middle of praying. Suddenly I had to have them. I needed one last thing before they closed the casket and sunk him deep into the ground. A box in the ground; I just can’t accept it. How could it be? How did it happen? One minute, alive and laughing, and the next minute buried, never to be seen again.
I went over to my uncle and whispered to him to take the rosary beads from my father’s hands. He didn’t question why; he understood. After he handed them to me, he signaled to the funeral director to do what had to be done. The casket was closed.

We quietly walked from the limo to where the priest was standing. It was next to the twenty-foot bronze statue of the Virgin Mary—that’s where he was to be buried. As I watched the coffin being lowered into the six-foot hole in the ground, I realized that I’d never see him on this earth again; maybe in heaven one day, if it really existed.
It was my turn to say good-bye. I threw my rose onto the coffin.

“Bye, Dad,” I whispered under my breath. “I’m sorry for the way things turned out. We didn’t have much time together, did we?”

As I walked away, I stopped to look back one more time. Six feet of dirt surrounded the hole, and in just a few minutes, it would block out the light for eternity.

excerpt from Master of the Realm


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