The man frowning at Madge through the screen door had stolen a letter from the mailbox earlier in the week, so he knew the surname.
"Yes," Madge replied.
"I'm Harold Bates from the ... [+]
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Translated by Wendy Cross
It was November. It was cold; below the seasonal average, the weather forecast said. The wind swept the dead leaves along in gusts. The sky was a cold, clear blue. Really not the weather to be put into a coffin, I said to myself...
I was off to the funeral of Paul Caron, a colleague of mine. Paul was a lad from the North district, a great buddy, straightforward, no hidden side to him, uncompromising and honest. A big guy, with broad shoulders, slightly bent, who everybody liked, even those who had crossed swords with him. He said what he had to say, sometimes a bit abruptly, but always politely. He had lost his fight against the big C, a nasty cancer of the pancreas, one of those that carries a good guy off in less than forty days. When I had gone to see him at the hospital, he had said to me, "I couldn't care less what's up there. What I want is to leave a trace behind me down here." And that's why I decided to go to the funeral, to show his wife and his kids that Paul was really appreciated and that we wouldn't forget him.
I had got to the church about half an hour later than I had intended and took one of the few seats still empty in the back row. I couldn't get over seeing so many people at this funeral. There must have been the whole population of the North district! Then the priest talked about the personality of the dead man, a committed person, a man who had made an impression on everyone who had met him at one time or another. Then his children, two boys and a girl, had said some words. They had described in simple terms the man who had loved them, comforted them and guided them. Every characteristic they described took me back to the image I had of Paul. The memories of those last eight years spent by his side started to surface. The missed opportunities as well. Suddenly, like a young teenager, I felt overwhelmed by emotion. An old tissue in the bottom of my pocket came to my rescue.
Although I had not known them very well, I felt close to that family. Paul, at that moment, united us all. Still overcome by emotion, I remember that I put sixty dollars in the collection plate, which was not like me. And when the white plumes of incense rising from the censer had disappeared into the air, I did not feel I had the strength to go and bless the body, or to face the distress of the family. So I decided to slip away quietly. Near the door I saw one of the undertakers from the funeral service. I asked him where the book of condolence was for Monsieur Caron. "Monsieur Caron," he said, "but that was at St John's Church, opposite the town hall. This is the funeral of Monsieur Louis Feuillet."