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By Donna Flood
Chapter 27 - The Funeral

The cemetery at Foraker, Oklahoma, like any prairie burial ground, could hold a large sheaf of pages in a book to tell of the greatest sorrow to man, or woman. In the summer it is bearable but in the winter with ice covering the ground, winds whipping at the clothing of the mourners and dark brooding skies make the place seem like hell on earth. The strong prairie people go there, bury their loved ones and bare-up, but those of towns who have never been to the place are like someone in shock.

There were few chairs beside the casket and Mariah pulled me down into the end of them, beside her. For all the world who resented my cousin for various reasons: her wealth, beauty, arrogance, intelligence. I was not one of those. She and I were thick as thieves in our loyalty to each other and never did I question her directions. When she hooked her arm in mine, at the time I believed this was for her own support. The funeral director’s wife walked over to me and stooped down face level so she was looking into my eyes and quietly spoke.

“Will you please give your chair to his wife?”

“I turned to see the woman who was standing beside me and I, for the first time, saw who Chief had married. She wasn’t unpleasant, but had a humble way about her as if she wanted to be friendly. I looked back at the woman asking the question and as if to sense my indecision, Mariah gave a slight tug on my arm which was my signal, “Do not move.”

I turned from the women, focused my attention on the casket and said nothing. The one who asked for me to move quietly backed away from me. What was this spirit of the Osage that had all at once invaded my body that I should behave in the same way they would have? For some reason Uncle Dean and Mariah were not allowing any raw emotion to be displayed regarding the loss of our loved one, and that was probably the love and manners of the blood of the Scot. For some reason that breeding was lost to me. My feelings were more tied up in the brutal, unfair, event. Anger welled up inside me, not for Chief’s wife but for the woman who had asked me to move.. Mariah was too refined to make a scene and used me to get a point across. I was willing to be used.

My older cousin clung to me in a way uncharacteristic for her. She was always the strong one but today her poise was not there. We walked slowly over the ice and I felt we might both slip and fall because of the grip she had on me. It was a relief to reach the car and settle into the luxury of that interior.

Uncle Dean’s automobile was the yearly new Buick he always purchased and it moved away from the hated place not as he might have speeded away in normal circumstances but in a slow, deliberate way as if the machine itself was dreading, first of all to leave the place and then to equally be unsure it wanted to go forward into a world for which no one knew what was ahead of them.

For some reason the three of us stayed at the Ranch house that night. Uncle Dean slept in his old room, the one his daughter and her former husband had used for some years. Mariah did not want to sleep in her bedroom she had as a child and the one her own daughters had occupied. We both knew we didn’t want to sleep in Warren’s old bedroom even though it was the friendliest of all the rooms. Once when we were children Vee would not sleep in the house but preferred the back porch where a dormitory of beds were lined up. The back porch must have been designed by Aunt Bertha. The Osage loved their summer houses where fresh air poured in through the wide and spacious windows. This long, pleasant room was as much like that as possible. Mariah used one end of the porch in the summer for meals. It was here she put a round table and chairs. The space was wonderful in the summer but quite impossible to inhabit in the winter.

Mariah opened up the couch into a bed and that surprised me. I had never seen it used as a bed. This she covered with the many blankets always stashed in the closets. The bed was cozy and the room was kept warm by the propane.

“I’m freezing,” My cousin kept complaining and like a child she held to me through the night.

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