People in a small town are interwoven as if connected by a giant spider web. Be careful who you talk about, there’s a chance the subject of your story is related to the listener!
It was a small group of people who gathered around the opening in the earth. If the deceased man had friends while living, none were compelled to brave the biting cold weather to bid him farewell. Winter in Wyoming reaches inside a person and clenches the bones. So, only a few family members came to say goodbye. And only those that felt obligated to come.
Defined by the law of the land, he wasn’t a bad man. He just enjoyed rather selfish pursuits while living. It was the pleasure of the moment that spurred him on. In the end, it was too many of those pleasurable moments that ended his life so abruptly. Perhaps, if he had been a bit more altruistic and didn’t give in so easily to his vices, he would still be alive that day. But he still would have been absent from his family. Even though they gathered to bury a family member, he was family in name only. Each person had to struggle to remember a fond memory and the most recent memory dated back 20 years. For all intents and purposes, the family buried a stranger.
How does one go about burying a stranger? By tradition. His mother looked in the Yellow Pages and found a name of a familiar sounding church. A life story totally unacquainted with God would at least have some religion as the final punctuation. She spoke to the person who answered the phone and explained the situation in the best glowing terms she could muster.
The Bishop agreed to speak at the funeral. He stood by the gravesite and waited for all the family members to arrive. Then he spoke. His words were filled with hope and love and for the most part, generalities. Specifics were left out because he didn’t know the details. It didn’t bother the family because they didn’t know the specifics either.
However, this funeral took place in a small town. Small towns are full of connections. Even though some might be hidden.
The connection to this story is a girl. A girl hundreds of miles away who was unaware of the gathering. Or the funeral. Totally oblivious to the fact that she connected this group of people.
The man who spoke comforting words was her uncle and his family loved and adored his sister’s daughter. This is the family the girl grew up with and knew. This is the family she felt safe with and appreciated. This was her family.
The man lowered into the ground was also her uncle. But she never knew him. Or his brother that she inherited her smile from. Or any of the people gathered in the small circle. They should have been her family, too. They could have been blessed to have her in their lives but they chose aloofness instead of warmth.
And so, the girl hundreds of miles away was related to every person at the funeral that day. She was the small town connection. And she didn’t even know it.