Sunday, April 7, 2013

Funeral in the Rain

Hi, Everybody!
Behind the Scenes with Jools is a new feature I’m adding to the blog, for those who want to know a little more about where some of the scenes in the 44 series come from.
With much love and appreciation,

There was no official funeral, but I was determined to be there for the burial even if it meant I would have to wait around for the gravediggers all day.

I sat on a cement bench with my husband and two small daughters, waiting. The sky looked ominous, a perfect omen for the sudden and violent cancer that swiftly took him out. And while it had been raining for days, leaving the hilly cemetery soggy, for a moment there was a break.

But there was no sign of life in the graveyard other than my little family. No workers, no movement toward his plot down below, no shovels or tractors heading our way, no sad mourners leaving flowers at the thousands of other graves that surrounded us.

We were completely alone.

And then the storm hit. 

It rarely rains in Southern California, but those bad rains that come every four or five years, usually in February, are worthy of a Bible story or two. It was that kind of storm that opened up on us that dreadful morning while we waited for my father to be put into the ground. The thunder started in, rumbling like an explosion overhead, with sudden, torrential rain dropping down on us in thick sheets as the sky screamed. 

My heart ached. And while water dripped down on my face, I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything. I was completely numb.

There was nothing to do but to run for cover. We ran up to the mausoleum at the top of the hill behind us and hid amongst the entombed bodies, waiting for it to stop. We wandered around with the ghosts, our footsteps eerily echoing off the marble and steel placards.  

I glanced out again. The view was stunning and awful all at once. Past the rows of graves, the San Fernando Valley stretched out below: the place where I was born and raised, learned to drive, fell in love, had children.

And now, it was the place where I was burying my dad. 

This memory found a place in 44 Book Seven. In the prologue, Nathaniel and Abby are standing in that cemetery with me. And I was glad to share it with them, two of my favorite characters.

He stood watching the service from a distance, beneath a large tree up on a hill overlooking the cemetery. The storm was intense. Deep mud puddles were spreading through the grass while streams flooded over pathways that wound through the tombstones. Waterfalls cascaded violently from the rooftop of the mausoleum behind him. A harsh wind blew into the mourners who stood by the open grave, wet and shivering like rodents, listening to the old man rambling on about God’s love and the Valley of Death.

It wasn’t a successful day, at least not in the way I had intended. I never did see the burial. But standing up on the hill, it came to me that it was time to go, that we didn’t belong there. I realized that while my world was filled with pain, it was also filled with incredible beauty. 

I wrapped my hands around those little fingers and we ran back to our car, heading home.