By the time John was seated, Father Chris was again in front of the altar. He stood in his vestments, hands centered on his sternum, palm pressed to palm and said, “Thank you, John and Jacob. That was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. Showed the love that MS Lottie lived every day of her life.
“After the service there will be a small brunch in the all-purpose room. Please join us there.”
As Chris concluded his brunch invitation he spread his arms wide. At this signal bagpipes from the back of the church burst into “Amazing Grace.” Mike and Jamal had stepped from the sidelines, closed and secured the top half of Lottie’s coffin and then turned it ninety degrees so that her head was pointing toward the church’s main exit.
At the sound of the bagpipes John, who had kept his composure through the eulogy reading, began to sob. Father Chris was looking at the Hagans clan and Joni gently pushed her husband out of the pew.
Jake, Payton, Joni, John, Sean, and Bilhah walked to Lottie’s casket and surrounded it. Jake and Payton took the front two corners, Sean and John the rear corners and the two women each grabbed a central handle. Mike looked to Jake eyebrows raised and Jake nodded minutely. Mike nodded in return and the pallbearers each lifted the casket, bringing Lottie up and walking her forward of the stand as they shuffled slowly up the center aisle of Shekinah Chapel. Father Chris and two young altar attendants followed and the congregation fell into line behind, creating a recessional parade.
Once they reached the common area the remaining Hagans family spread out in a line, thanking everyone for coming and urging them to stay for a bite to eat. Father Chris turned right and positioned himself near the entrance to the all-purpose room. The pallbearers went left and ushered Lottie outside to the waiting hearse where Mike and Jamal helped load her casket into the back of the vehicle before shaking hands all around and repeating, “Sorry for your loss,” to everyone and then driving away. John stood next to Joni, Jake to Bilhah but all were close enough to touch one another.
“That was nice,” Bilhah said. “You did great, Johnny,” she added, rubbing her husband’s arm as she spoke to her brother-in-law.
“Yes, you did,” Jake agreed, extending his hand. “Thanks for having my six.”
“Family, right?” John replied, shaking hands and bringing Jake in close to him. “Nice casket,” he added.
Joni smiled. “It was a rental. Mom’s being cremated so if we wanted her there with an open casket we had to rent one for the funeral. There wasn’t a big upcharge on the rental so we splurged. You guys ready to go inside?” she asked.
Payton and Sean looked at one another and shrugged. “Yeah. I’m ready,” Payton said. “And who are you calling a quitter?” he asked Jake, punching him gently in the arm.
“It was a metaphor, right John?”
“I don’t remember. Did you say he was a quitter or he was like a quitter? That’s the difference between a metaphor and a simile.”
“Oh good Lord,” Bilhah declared. “I’m going in. See you inside.”
Jake took three quick steps, grabbed his wife’s hand, brought her to him for a quick kiss and said, “Hang on, darling. I’m coming with you,” as the six pallbearers reentered through the chapel’s street entrance.