We planted a tree in your honor on the curve of the narrow road. A seagull cried on his journey to the sea and in the fields the cows raised their heads. Their jaws worked the grass and their brown eyes were sullen. They might have gazed at you the same way when you took the last walk in the rain. I tried to imagine them startled from the sound of the car brakes screeching, but I knew that wasn’t the way it went. They would have looked on bored, while I washed dishes in the sink.
The priest held the seeds in his joined hands, as if he held the body of Christ in the April sun. The priest wasn’t my idea. I don’t know if you would have agreed or not. The questions I never asked are the ones that get to me now. Sunday morning, when you’d get ready to take your mother to mass, I never said, “Do you enjoy it?” I was more inclined to remind you to get milk on the way home. The priest was your mother’s idea. She’d gotten smaller every week. Each time I saw her I was afraid that she would soon fold in on herself and disappear completely. She dressed in black all the time and had given up speaking for sighing. She cried when the priest put the seed in the soil. A hole had been miraculously dug when we’d arrived in the morning, in much the same way dinner would appear on the table for me and Lisa, or I’d wake to see she’d gotten herself ready for pre-school and was standing beside the bed with matching clothes and her hair brushed into neat plaits. Someone had dug the hole and had tied my four year old daughters shoes and before that someone had driven too quickly, or they might have tried to avoid an animal crossing the road, a hare maybe, not a cow because they were too smart to become involved with any of us. After a moment of contemplation, they bent their heads for more grass and I had an urge to climb over the stone wall and join them.
He is gone, the priest said, and if he deserves he has entered the kingdom of God. I wanted to ask, if you deserve a tree, doesn’t that mean you deserve heaven? But I didn’t and it is one of those questions that annoys me now, though I rarely see the priest and when I do I don’t talk about the tree. I never told him that for a while I didn’t think the tree would grow.