Sam knew Dean had agreed reluctantly, knew the thought of standing in front of all those strangers filled him with dread, knew he'd spent hours trying to write down exactly what he wanted to express and had struggled to find words that he felt did Rose justice. Sam had read numerous drafts and had known that even the rough first draft would have made Rose proud.
When they'd arrived at Andrew's, both boys had been made welcome as they always were. Andrew's wife, Amy had taken Sam on one side to talk. "How's he doing? I said to Andrew to be prepared that he might not be able to speak at the funeral."
"He's got something written but I don't know. He's not sure he's the right person to speak."
"He is, you know that, right? It would mean a lot to Andrew and to Rose. Do you think it would help if I spoke to him?"
"It might, but I really don't know."
Amy had caught Dean later that day, asked him to help her take some flowers down to the church. He'd gone unquestioningly with her, but she hadn't been surprised by his reaction on reaching the church door. She'd seen him stop dead, unable to cross the threshold. She'd put the flowers in her arms down and had gone back, taking half of those he was carrying, she had slipped her hand in his and drawn him into the church. She'd placed the rest of their things on the floor, then led him down to the front of the church, where she guided him into a pew near the front and went in after him.
"Dean, I know this is hard..."
"I can't do it... there's someone better..."
"No, there isn't. If you could do this, it would mean a lot to Andrew and I, and I think you might find it will help you too."
"I don't know what to say."
"I asked Sam, he said you'd had a go at writing some ideas down. Why don't you let me have a look and help you?"
"I guess so, but if..."
"Let me see it first, Dean, before we think negatively." He handed her the paper he'd written the latest draft on. She read it through, tears filling her eyes again as they had so often since Rose's death. "Dean, this is right. This is what people need to know about Rose. Please, I know it's going to be hard but please do read it tomorrow."
"I don't really know how funerals in churches like this work," he'd said not exactly sure how to explain that those people important to him who'd died and had bodies left had been given hunter's burials not church services.
She'd taken his hands, stilled their anxious movement and talked him through the service, where they would sit, how he and Sam would sit with them in the family seating because that's what they were, family, where he would stand to speak and when. When she'd finished, she had him help place the flowers and then they returned to the house. He'd barely said a word but she had faith that come the service he would be able to speak.
Sam hadn't left Dean's side for more than a few minutes from when he and Amy had returned from the church. For someone so silent and strong, Sam could see just how fragile his brother was right then. Rose had been his anchor at some of the desperate low points in his life, Sam had loved her for that, but now she was gone and Sam felt like he was trying to fill her shoes.
They were sitting at the front of the church now and Sam could see and feel the tension in his brother. He rested his hand on Dean's back hoping it would give some support. Dean's head turned and he whispered "Sorry," and Sam just shook his head. He was proud of his brother. He felt as Dean's position shifted and saw as Rose's youngest granddaughter, Ellie climbed onto Dean's lap. The eleven year old was lost without her grandmother and was struggling to deal with her emotions. Being able to see how upset her parents were, she'd tried to hide her own pain so they didn't worry about her. When the brothers had arrived, she'd taken to coming to them to help express her grief. Sam figured there was a certain irony to two such emotionally damaged people as himself and Dean being able to help someone else.
Sam felt as Dean shifted again, this time gently passing the petite eleven year old to Sam's lap before making his way to the front of the church. Sam wondered if everyone could tell how upset his brother was, how worried he was about standing in front of everyone in case he let Rose down.
"Is Dean okay?" Ellie whispered into his ear.
"He'll be fine."
"Doesn't he want to talk about Grandma?"
"It's not that. He..." Sam wondered how to explain. "He's just nervous. He wants everyone to know how wonderful she was."
"She was, wasn't she? I think she was the best."
Dean stood at the front and looked out... all those people waiting to listen to what he'd got to say about Rose. He looked down at what he'd written; it wasn't anywhere near good enough. He swallowed and looked up for Sam and made eye-contact not with his brother but with Ellie. He needed her to know, he needed to tell her just how special Rose had been and so he zoned out everyone else in the church and spoke just to Ellie.
"I first met Rose about thirty years ago, when my family and I lived in this area for a while. Rose, or Mrs Butler as I knew her then, was my teacher. She was special. I can say more than that, I can say that Rose in my experience was unique. She cared about her students beyond the classroom wall, past the end of the school day. She took her work home with her and she took her students to heart. For some of her students, myself included, Rose made a world of difference."
"Rose taught me like hundreds of other children to read, write and do math, but she taught me more than that. She taught me that I could learn, that I could do well, and she taught me that I was worth it. I was worth her time to teach and if I put in the effort, I could learn to do the things she was teaching. She taught me that nothing beats caring for the people around you and watching them succeed and that the best gifts you can give someone are time and love."
Dean paused and looked back at Ellie, saw a sad reminiscent smile on her young face as she held on tight to his brother.
"When my family and I left the area, I was sorry to go because Rose put good memories into my time here. Twenty years passed until Rose and I met again. Rose had been working with the hospital since she retired from teaching, reading to patients who had few visitors. Rose agreed to take part in a radical trial. She gave up time, lots of it, to read to a man who'd been left in a coma following a car accident. He wasn't a local, he wasn't anything special, he wasn't someone anyone here knew. Rose wasn't paid to spend time with any of the people she helped at the hospital. She did it because she could, because she couldn't imagine sitting back at home doing nothing and that decision made the world of difference to my family, because the man in the coma was me. The doctors told me afterwards that the time Rose spent with me was a major factor in my recovery. Rose did not come to read to me because I had been her student, she didn't find that out until later. She came because a nurse told her it might be the difference between my staying in a coma and my recovering. Lucky for me, the nurse was right and Rose helped save me."
"I stayed in touch with Rose after that and over the last ten years, we met often and shared many happy hours, many books and tales. My life was brightened by Rose and I will miss her."
"Rose read a story to me as a child. It was 'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein. I once told her I thought it was a sad story because the boy took from but never appreciated the tree. She told me I was wrong. I think I understand why now. The tree was happy giving and recognition wasn't the important part of being able to give. For Rose, she gave because she enjoyed giving and everyone here was fortunate to see and experience that at some time. I can never repay Rose for all that she gave me, but I just want to say to her for one last time, 'Thank you Rose.'"
As Dean returned to his seat, Sam was pretty sure there wouldn't be a dry eye in the room. As his brother sat down next to him, Sam reached out to squeeze his arm. He didn't look round, but Sam saw him nod and draw his hand across his eyes. Sam looked down at Ellie to see her watching Dean. She was frowning as she saw another tear track down his cheek. Pushing Sam's arm away, she moved back toward Dean. Sam tried to hold her still to give Dean a bit more time to compose himself, but she wriggled free and put her arms round Dean's neck. He looked at her startled, then opened his arms so she could settle back on his lap. Once comfortable, she wiped the stray tear and Sam heard her say, "You loved Grandma like I did. I miss her Dean."
"Me too, Ellie, me too."
Eventually, Andrew stood and headed to the front to speak. "I want to thank you all for coming today to help us remember and celebrate what a wonderful woman my mother was. My family and I can't imagine how we're going to get through the coming weeks without her, without her smile, her kindness, her wisdom but we will. We will because it's what she would want, it's what she would expect and because she taught us well about how life is about living, sharing and being happy. I am happy... not right this instant, but in my life as a whole. I am happy because I've been taught by the best and I know just how lucky I have been and still am."
"I want to thank everyone who spoke today and shared their memories of Mom, but I especially want to thank Dean, because I know he was worried that people here would think of him as an intruder. In fact over the last few years, he and Sam have become part of our family. He spoke of all the things, Rose gave him and in that he summed up what we all felt. I want to add my voice to his and say, 'Thank you Mom.'"
Dean and Sam stayed for a few more days after the funeral but when it came time to leave, Sam was pleased to see Dean more centred. They said their goodbyes to Andrew and Amy with an agreement to return for a visit before too long.
Sam sat in the driver's seat and watched as Dean slipped on his dark glasses and settled back as if to sleep. "Wake me when it's my turn to drive," he said and Sam smiled, some things never changed.
"Sure Dean. I'll do that."
Author's Note: Thank you for reading and to those who have reviewed an extra thank you. After much deliberation whilst writing and even more whilst Rae Artemis was kind enough to beta this, I debated on whether to use the last two chapters. I still don't know whether it was the right thing to do... but you've got them now... for good or ill. Thank you for taking the time to read this far. Good wishes to you all, Morning Sunlight.