It was supposed to be a gloomy day, with clouds filling the sky and a cold drizzle on the mourners' heads and shoulders; something to match what they should be feeling. Instead the sun was out, warming them, making them close their eyes and turn their faces to the sky, relishing the first real day of Spring.
Xavier stood behind the crowd, watching them as they bowed their heads in prayer. Then he listened as his daughter and then his son stood before the small gathering to share their eulogies. Carol was fully prepared, as always, and read her remarks from a small sheet of stark white paper. Dan did what he always did and rambled for ten minutes, saying whatever came into his head. Both of them said the kind of things he would have expected them to say at his funeral.
When the children - who were far past childhood - finished there was another prayer, and the Xavier that they all thought they knew was lowered into a hole in the ground. Then the mourners, a small collection of friends, coworkers and family (Xavier took note that his ex-wife wasn't present), filed past the hole, dropping clumps of dirt that landed with soft plops on the casket. The whole thing took forty minutes. Nobody cried.
After they left, two men with shovels came and removed the tarp covering the displaced earth and sod, and began to fill in the grave. Xavier leaned against a massive stone angel and watched them until they were finished tamping the last square of grass back into place. Then he moved closer. There was no headstone yet, only a small plastic marker with his name on it. He sighed as he stared down at his final resting place. Now what was he supposed to do?
When the realization had first hit, he had expected a bright light, a dark tunnel, a chorus of angels. Then as time went on he wondered if maybe there was a guidebook he was missing. A week after the heart attack he was still waiting for someone to show him the way. Funny, he had never really believed in the eternal soul, until now.