They bury their dead in vaults. Long rows of casket-sized holes stacked six bodies high. Mourners shuffle along behind the men struggling beneath the weight, the dead weight, inside the casket. Mostly, they do.
Her casket was featherlight, the body inside so nearly weightless it seemed heartless to call it dead weight. The men carrying her body stood ramrod straight, as men are wont to do when they are being watched. They marched in step to avoid stepping on the heels of the man in front of them.
When they reached her row, he wanted to help slide her casket into the hole. It was unseemly, they told him. It wasn’t done, they said. He helped anyway. He stood at the bottom and pushed her up. Then he climbed the steps. He pushed her up then moved to the next step. He wanted to sweat. He wanted to feel the pain she had felt as her life slowly slipped away. He wanted to know what it felt like to die holding your new baby in your arms.
He stood in front of her friends, and her family, and her co-workers as the mason began to close the opening. He didn’t notice when he was the last one left. He didn’t hear the sobbing, muffled cries, or sniffs as the others walked away.
His hands were balled in his pockets as the mason tapped in the bricks. As the final brick fit into place, his light went out. The vault was closed. She lay in perpetual darkness now.
He took his hand from his pocket and opened his fist. Susanna’s wedding band glowed in the sunlight.