The mourners dispersed, for the most part, off to the reception at the Marine Biological Laboratories (as befit my uncle, one of their most prominent researchers). Leaving six of us, and the rabbi, behind. His sister and brother-in-law. His son-in-law. His other brother-in-law, my father. His granddaughter. His niece - me.
One by one, each of us hefting the shovel.
"The first shovelful," the rabbi said quietly, "we lift with the back of the shovelblade. To make it harder. To show that this is a mitzvah we do not want to perform. It is our duty to bury the dead. But we wish we did not have to do it."
Incongruous, my black ballet slippers on rock and dirt. Incongruous, the heavy shovel in my slim and trembling hands. I looked up into steel-grey sky. The rain seemed to hold its breath. I dug in, shovel crunching through pebbles.
Carried the shovel to the hole in the earth. To the simple lines of the plain wooden casket, covered with single roses, mounded over with dirt.
I cried when I put my rose on his coffin. I simply sniveled til I got back to Adam's waiting arms, then collapsed into him, crushing his lapel in my fist; my mother leaned against me as she cried, holding my father.
I did not cry with the shovel in my hands, arms shaking.
We do our duty.
This small, silent thing to honor you.
I have heard it said that all prayers distill down to "please" or "thank you".
All thoughts with a shovelful of dirt poised above the casket distill to this:
"I love you," I whispered. "Goodbye."