The minister was speaking, but Lou could barely hear what he was saying. Her eyes were fixed on the front of the church, where her oldest son Charles' small, still body lay in his casket. Her husband, Rad, sat at her side, and the three younger children, Timmy, Wyatt, and Ruby, sat almost motionless on the bench beside their parents.
As soon as the funeral was over, friends and neighbors came over to offer their condolences to Rad and Lou, and Lou was comforted by their presence and words. Although she knew that Rad shared her grief, she felt there was a great emotional chasm separating the two of them. She'd been so lonely while he'd been away at war, and so happy to see him again when he'd finally returned. He hadn't been quite as lonely, she knew; yet she refused to let herself think about that. Between working full time at the plant and caring for four children, she hadn't had the opportunity to seek solace, as he had, and she felt certain that if they were ever separated for a long stretch of time again, he'd seek solace again in the same way.
Rad and Lou, united in their grief, held hands as they walked behind their son's casket to the freshly-dug grave, with their fellow mourners following closely behind.
"The house is just so quiet," Lou said later, as she sat in the small shack looking at the table laden with food. "Oh, Rad, what are we going to do without him?"
"He's in a better place now," Rad said gruffly.
"If' only we'd watched him more closely..."
"Don't do no good to talk about what might have been."
"I know," Lou sighed. "It just happened so fast..." She walked to the dresser and picked up the photo of her great grandparents, Rhett and Scarlett Butler. They'd almost lost their daughter Bonnie when she'd fallen from a pony as a child. Almost. But Bonnie had lived. Charles hadn't.