I pulled into the driveway, and put the car in park. It was a risk, just showing up like this to see my sister, but I missed her. I pulled out my cell and hit her number on my contact list.
After two attempts and nothing but voicemail, I called her husband, Manny, who was at work.
“Hey Man, she is home, right?”
“Yeah, Li, she is. She doesn’t have the car, and it’s what, 11? Where else would she be?”
I eyed the clock. It was 11:37, and mass at my church would start in twenty. With the phone held up by my right shoulder, I took off the seatbelt and opened my door, which immediately started Zoe, who had been sitting quietly in her carseat, to all out wails of protest. I walked up the front stairs like I had countless times throughout my life, and banged on the door.
“Is she answering?,” Manny asked.
“No. Augh…”. I headed back to the car to calm Zoe when I heard the call waiting beep. It was Joscelyne. I quickly hung up with her hubby and made my demand to her: she had fifteen minutes to get herself down to the car. I’d go to Dunkin’ in the meantime and get us some much needed caffeine. She agreed.
We made our way into my church a couple of minutes after noon. We headed down front. This was a special All Souls Mass, two weeks after it was supposed to be held, postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. All total, there was five of us in attendance. My pastor, Father Ros, asked us each to do a reading. We both said yes. As he stepped away to begin mass, she studied her assigned passage earnestly.
“So how do you like that? Your first time here and he’s got you working! Don’t worry, we follow everything on the paper, and it’s very similar in order to Catholic masses,” I said quietly.
When her time came, she walked up the stairs and stopped and did a quick genuflect at the Communion table. I smiled. Fast learner. She read from Psalm 130:
- Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
- If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?
- For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.
Towards the end of the service, Father Ros read through the pages long list of the Faithful Departed. Name after name after name.
I looked up at him, wearing purple vestments, the one I saw all through Lent. Purple is solemn. Purple is royal. Purple is my favorite color.
I looked over at Jos. She was holding Zoe and frowning. The names were many.
“It’s sad,” I whispered to her.
We lit candles after mass. Between us two, we had pretty much taken up two whole rows. I held Zoe’s little hand while Jos kneeled. Feeling voyeuristic, I suddenly looked away from her and towards the tiny stained glass window angel behind me.
“You see the little angel, Zoe?,” I asked quietly. Zoe smiled through her pacifier.
At the diner, she ordered a reuben and some fries and dipped them in gyro sauce. She always did stuff like that, switching up her food orders and making them even better.
Two elderly women came in together. I grabbed Jos’ hand. “Do you think we’ll be like that, you know, two little old ladies, still coming to the diner together, gabbing away?”
She looked at me and laughed, “Yes, Li, yes.”
I grabbed some Glade candles and started sniffing. I settled on a couple of purple ones and threw them in the cart. Jos got garbage bags. We were at Target, but both of us being broke, we couldn’t get anything from their new winter clothes collection.
Once we were done and back in the car, she opened her new lip gloss. It was a pretty reddish purple color. “Brandy” was the name on the label. She moved the wand back and forth across her lips.
After a few more errands, I dropped her home. She reached back and kissed Zoe and held her hand. We exchanged “I love yous,” and she went inside.
I looked back at the house as I pulled out the driveway. This house, our momma’s house, the little yellow Cape Cod we grew up in. We both came home from the hospital to this house.
I sighed. Mom is in a nursing home, and times being tough, Jos and her family had moved in. It was supposed to be for a few weeks, but then month after month after month had passed.
Four days later, I got the call. Manny came home from work and found her. Passed on in her sleep. He called me, sobs and screams. His sister took the phone and talked to me.
“Is she breathing?,” I heard myself stutter.
“I don’t know, I can’t tell…. she’s not. She’s cold and hard and stiff…”
I heard gutteral, deep screams. A loud wail.
Lord Jesus, those sounds were coming from me.
I looked up at my daughter. She looked confused and frightened. On the desk behind her, the two purple candles burned.