She gets up to the podium and slowly unfolds the paper, spreading it out and smoothing the creases. She sucks in a deep breath and begins. She talks about how sweet the girl was, how her smile was like the sun brightening up everyone's day. The others listen and smile through their grief. They remember. She says she will miss the girl, but she is happy because her friend is in a better place now. She wipes away her tears with her hands, gives the audience a brave smile before stepping off the podium. Fresh tears well up in my eyes. The strength people have astounds me.
A few more people take turns to speak; their words hauntingly beautiful despite the pain and the solemnity. The service lasts for quite a while as many had gathered to pay their respects. She really was someone special.
I shift my gaze to the framed photograph. A snapshot of a moment of pure bliss, forever frozen in time. So young and so full of life; whatever happened? My tears spill over at last. I let it run down my cheeks.
The pastor is speaking again.
"Earth to earth, dust to dust," he grabs a handful of soil and lets it fall through his fingers onto the coffin below.
The girl's family follow suit. I watch as the brown specks hit the white roses and scatter across the wood.
The service has ended and the crowd begins to thin. The atmosphere remains heavy but it is quieter now. I am alone at last; my turn to say goodbye. I walk over to the headstone. Unsure of what to say I survey the cemetery. In the distance people are getting into cars they have parked beside the tiny church. The waves come crushing down and I am swept away. I wait for the turbulence to subside.
At last it clears and I stare at the engravings a little while longer.
A hand on my shoulder jolts me out of reverie.
"It is time to go."
I turn to find Angel looking at me sympathetically. I nod.
"Goodbye my friend," I say as I press my fingers to my lips and then onto the headstone.
It felt cold.
I follow Angel down the row of memorials. At the end I turn to take one last look at the grave.
R.I.P. Emily Stone.
R.I.P. to me.