Things I'd Like Said At My Funeral

by Christy Hutchcraft

She was never boring.

 

She never smoked cigarettes, she looked beautiful pregnant, which was most of the time.

 

She birthed thousands of babies, some from her own womb, and for the rest that were not part of her seven, she stroked their mothers’ hands, cleaned up their blood, cradled their strange new slimy bodies as they howled in her arms in terror. She tried to soothe as much as she could. That’s what any of us deserve.

 

She believed in Jesus Christ. She prayed her rosary and went to mass.

 

She married the wrong man and moved across the country where she had no friends, just babies wailing.

 

She never heard the sound of silence. Only drunken footsteps on the staircase, a hamster in the kitchen spinning his wheel, her daughter’s pet rats in their cages at night, gnawing away at string. Always the blaring of traffic from across the avenue, squad helicopters, gossip, her second son painting another naked woman on a canvas down the hall, the dog growling at the postman.

 

She hated to cook.

 

She said things she shouldn’t have, and she didn’t think twice. No regrets.

 

She divorced despite the Church, married again, this time to a better man. When he died she tried to forget.

 

She might have been lonely, but she rarely said so.

 

On Easter—in the age of apocalyptic uncertainty and viral loads—she watched the pope on television. She thought she had seen it all. What she longed for was the sweet smell of incense from behind the pews, the drawl of an organ, lit candles, Bernice skulking in line behind her waiting for the priest’s finger to plant another weekly wafer onto her tongue.

 

She told a grown granddaughter over the telephone who had moved back across the country, undoing what she’d done, that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

 

She’d say her piece right after a meal, get in the car and drive back to that large empty house where she’d talk to the ghosts of her babies now grown, who now had babies of their own, who now were also having babies. So many generations she mothered!

 

She turned ninety when the mountains in front of the yard were aflame. No regrets.

 

She stopped hiding from that silly manufactured virus. She ate cake at a crowded table, drank wine, her great great grandchildren losing their balance beside her chair, their cries clean, crisp and near.

 

Near. She was never far away. She was always very near. Nearer to God and nearer to you.

 

Her life was once snow, then sand.

About the Author

'Things I'd Like Said at My Funeral' is from Christy's most recent fiction collection 'How I Have Become Like You,' a body of work she is currently polishing. She earned her MFA from Columbia University in 2001, she was a fellow at The Writer's Institute in New York City directed by Andre Aciman in 2018, and she has had articles and fiction published in The Brooklyn Rail and The Nashville Review.