It's a heavy topic, especially one for a child to understand. In this excerpt from chapter 9, eleven year-old Sera just finished helping Aunt Georgette bathe her mother and witnessed her cry for more morphine. She wants to escape from the house. Marie is dying, succumbing to the cancer that has quickly spread throughout her body. Sera visits the workshop to inspect the casket that Matthew and Perry have made.
The dog understood. With a whimper and a sigh he laid on the floor after the men left the shop. His brown eyes followed Sera as she slowly toured around the workshop, touching tools on the pegboard and tapping boxes on the counters. She put her apple core on a small table then wiped her pudgy hands on her jeans.
Ringo looked at her and gave out one of those high-pitched whines, almost as if to ask, “Can we go now?”
Sera walked slowly, one foot in front of the other back to the casket. She ran her small fingers over the carvings on the lid and traced the shapes of the birds and butterflies. She walked around to the other side, wiped her hands on her jeans again then ran the left one over the cool, smooth white satin interior. She pushed gently down on the soft pillow.
The sight of it made Sera feel her own fatigue, to feel sleepy. She took off her shoes and carefully climbed into the casket; gently positioning herself to lay her head on the little pillow, her dark curls spread to the top and sides. Her chubby hips fit snuggly against the sides.
Ringo didn’t like that. He got up to check on Sera and whined at the side of the casket.
“It’s okay, boy. I’m just lying down in here. Sit! Stay!”
The casket was definitely not comfortable for sleeping, she concluded. She recalled the phrase “eternal rest” and “rest in peace” those grown-ups used when describing someone who had passed away. She remembered it used when Mr. Johnson died last winter. She remembered being sad. She remembered seeing Mrs. Johnson crying.
The realization hit her that her mother was not going to get better; that the cancer was still spreading and that… she was going to die. Hot tears streamed from her eyes, down the side of her face and into her ears. She wiped them with her hands, being careful not to get any on the nice material.
“Think happy thoughts,” she told herself, “Think happy thoughts.”
Sera imagined her mother as an ancient queen, an Egyptian queen – a goddess even – and this was her sarcophagus. She would be buried with treasures and beautiful statues. People would cry at her funeral and tell stories for centuries about her royal life.
Sera touched the sides of the interior and fingered the material. It’s like a cocoon maybe. Like she’s going to be wrapped up again in a cocoon then turn into a beautiful butterfly angel and fly to heaven. Can butterflies fly up that high, she thought sleepily. How far up is heaven? Is heaven really in the sky… I wish I could…. Zzz.
: end excerpt