After the funeral was over, I had some serious thinking to do. I had been one of the last to arrive, and was parked off to the side. So as the rest of the procession pulled out in groups of four or five, I stayed.

From this point on, it was all business. The last wavering thread of sentiment disappeared with the exhaust of the last car.

As if by magic, the casket appeared to descend. Apparently it hung, for suddenly one leaped into the open grave and bounced up and down. I could not help but remember the fine delicate carvings of pearl we had admired just minutes earlier.

The funeral directors huddled in the winter wind discussing operations, and then finally the hearse left as well. Two construction site pickup trucks, decked with emergency lights pulled up. Two men gathered all the flowers and stainless scaffolding that supports the casket above the grave, and placed them in the truck. The green Astroturf was then rolled, and also thrown into the back of a truck. Once done both departed.

Left only was the one person who had seemed out of place at the grave site service, dressed in overalls and knee high yellow neoprene boots. Expecting him to pick up a shovel, he walked instead a hundred yards, and climbed into the backhoe ubiquitously parked near any graveside service.

Deftly he raked the pile of soil over and into the grave. At various points, he tamped the loose aggregate with the full force of the mechanized machinery. Wham! Wham!

No sentimentality there. Just a job to do. Mysteriously be backed up, and drove down the road to an obscure forested plot of land. He climbed out and disappeared into the forest. After few minutes he returned, climbing back in and driving back to the grave site. The remaining dirt was now piled up four feet high above the casket. He turned the backhoe around, and with the front loader, filled the basket with the brown loose soil.

He carried it past me. I was alone. Minutes later he returned for another load. After he was gone I returned to the grave, said some words, and fought the winter wind back to my car.

As I started the ignition. I saw it had been twenty four minutes.

Anyone who as stood at the end of a birth canal, and welcomed a new soul into the world, would be humbled to know its over in such a short span.

I drove the long way out. Passing crypts, rich graves, poor graves. I wondered how much the family had shelled out for that coffin, which no one would ever see it again. I wondered how vain were those who chose to embellish their sites, and exactly what they were saying about themselves in doing so. I wondered if when the graves were first purchased, if those survivors had any inclination that another stranger’s gravestone would eventually abut theirs, as space ran out.

The funeral industry is a valid enterprise and I certainly do not wish to create financial hardship for what are mostly family businesses. But if one takes one’s own death, and looks at it analytically, the only thing that really matters is how we lived when we were alive, soul and body……..

For without the soul, we are just atoms, the same ones formed in some distant star……………..And now separated from the soul, they are free to move on to some distant purpose.