Do I have to go?” whined Billy.
He stomped his foot and looked over at the clock that read nine am. Billy rolled his eyes, flapped his arms, and sighed. Strangers filled his home, droning on to each other about things he did not understand. Billy yanked at the dark suit his mother made him wear. His feet tilted left and right against the tight black dress shoes he usually wore on Sundays.
“But, mom! It’s Saturday. All my friends will be at the park before we get home!”
Billy jumped at the sound of his mother’s voice. “Young man, if I hear you complain one more time, you’ll have a sore butt!” His mother turned him, pushed him into the bathroom, and grabbed a hairbrush. The bristles yanked and pulled at the twisted black locks in Billy’s hair.
“Ouch! Mom, that hurts!” Billy could see tears forming on his mother’s olive cheeks, but he knew they were not for him.
“Maybe if you’d obey me, I wouldn’t have to do this!” Although the tone was threatening, Billy could feel her strokes lighten and flow more smoothly. His brows creased together. Sure, he felt a little sad, but everybody dies. That is what older people do, and he was still young.
Billy asked, “Mom, why do people die when they’re old?”
His mother stopped organizing his mop of hair and put the brush on the counter. She bent down, put her arms around Billy, and he snuggled up against her. Billy could smell the perfume his mother wore when they were going somewhere as a family. Her thick black hair flowed down over her shoulders, and Billy buried his face inside.
He heard his mom quietly whimper and felt a tear roll down her soft cheek and touch his face.
“Billy, I wish we knew why people die. The church teaches it’s because of sin. God’s son Jesus promised to return and put an end to death. All of us wish He would hurry up and return.”
His uncle poked his head in the bathroom. “We need to go soon, Susie.”
Susie raised her tear-filled eyes to her brother. “In a minute, Hank.” Hank nodded and disappeared.
Susie held her son tight. “Many of us believe that death is a transition. The grandpa that you knew, the man you talked to was a soul made by God. I believe he is now with God and Jesus.”
“Is there anybody else with them?”
Susie smiled. “Oh, yes! Your grandmother, your Uncle Dave, all of Grandpa’s siblings, a lot of people. Even some of his friends we don’t know about.”
“That sounds good, mom. It sounds like he’s gonna have the best Christmas ever.”
Susie pushed her son away. “I suppose they are.”
He looked into her red, glistening eyes. “Then why is everybody so sad?”
Susie’s dark eyes began to pool up again. “We’re crying because we feel lonely without them. We won’t get to see them again while we’re alive if Jesus doesn’t return.”
Billy hugged his mom tight. “I’m here, mom. I won’t leave.”
Susie started to cry.
Billy laid the side of his head on his mom’s shoulder. “We should probably go, mom. We don’t want grandpa to be late meeting grandma. You know how that used to make her mad.”
Susie laughed in her tears. “You’re right. Let’s get going.”
She grabbed a couple of tissues and cleaned up her face. Billy held her hand, and they walked out into the room filled with mourners, ready to send Billy’s grandfather off to better times.