Karen took in the view from her spot at the front of the room. Brighlty flowerd curtains, rows of chairs split by an aisle, dim lighting, and fresh flowers were scattered around. The scent of roses and gardenias overpowered a hint of incense clinging to the walls.
Aunt Mini, matriarch of the family, was first to arrive. Cane in one hand and supported by her son’s arm, took her usual place in the first row.
Cousin Candace with her brood, ranging from three to thirteen, sat in the back. A quick exit might be necessary if one of her kids started acting up.
Friends arrived in two’s and three’s. Some from work and others from her high school days.
More people arrived; the noise level rose. Lots of hugging and hand-shaking among old friends and long-lost relatives warmed the room.
“I can’t believe how big you are. So grown up!” out-of-town relatives exclaimed, seeing one another for the first time in years.
Karen counted 52 people in all: 34 relatives, 17 friends, and one stranger who wandered in.
* * *
Tim walked to the front of the room. Conversations wrapped-up and all attention focused on him.
“Thank you for coming,” he said, looking out at the friendly faces.
After a glance at Karen in her place of honor, Tim looked down at the notes in his hand.
“As you know, we are here to celebrate Karen.”
Tim droned on about his sister. He recalled childhood escapades, divulging which one of them came up with the idea of digging up their mother’s garden.
“What can I say? We were looking for buried treasure.”
Karen tuned out his words and surveyed the crowd. She memorized the expressions on faces. She took note of who laughed at Tim’s jokes, who dabbed tears from eyes welling up with emotion, and who yawned in boredom.
Tim gestured with both hands, palms up lifting them toward heaven. “Let’s stand and sing to Karen on this special occasion.”
Karen wanted to cover her ears. The well-intentioned singing reminded her of the choir in the old country church she attended when at her summer home. No two people sang in the same key. One enthusiastic singer rushed the words while another sang a beat behind, creating an echo. It was all she could do to keep from giggling.
“Again, thank you everyone for coming. After you share your personal thoughts with Karen, join us in the next room for refreshments.”
Tim escorted Karen to the reception. One thought ran through her mind.
I wonder where I will go from here. I hope whoever wins custody of my urn places me in a room with a good view of the outdoors.