Father Francis

You ever bury someone? How about bury a priest? How about bury a priest as a fucking detention? I have. Do you know what's it like to be sent into your high school chapel, thinking you'll be doing some quick vacuuming and get on with your Friday only to find a coffin, open, in the center of the room? A man inside the casket looks older than time, draped in a white chasuble, clutching a chalice against his chest like his life depended on it (which I guess at one point it did). Do you know how heavy the smell of formaldehyde hangs in the air on a hot April day? How it can't leave your nostrils no matter how much time has passed? I do. How the weight of a tiny dead man can still bear upon you and six other seniors as you snake through the hallways of your high school, dress shirts mostly untucked, and ties just barely hanging around your necks. How you all find out at once the brittleness of drywall when met with the corner of a casket. Or how you can feel the priest slide so gently across the few inches of space he has because you're all carrying him lopsided on account of Andrew thinking touching a coffin is "bad luck." Or how you get to the grave yard on campus and no one is there to meet you. Not a family member. Not a friend. Not even someone who knew the priest. It's only you, your fellow prisoners, and your headmaster, Father McCormack, to give the funeral blessing. Two gravediggers wait just outside the cemetery, smoking, waiting for you finish up. Your headmaster waves holy water over the casket and then over you. You catch him stealing a glance at his watch. Perpetual light should be shining down by this point, but McCormack's just going through motions. The two gravediggers stomp out their cigarettes and lower the coffin into the ground. Behind them a headstone reads "Father Francis Wright C.S.Sp. 1922-2014." An exact replica of all the others in the yard. A perfect set of our own terracotta warriors that hang in a discarded corner of a prep school, like old relics. All our everlasting promises buried under the dirt. You make the sign of the cross and Father McCormack dismisses you from detention.