The Burial

There’s nothing quite like watching what used to be your brother being lowered into a hole in the Illinois earth to remind you that every moment is a universe far beyond our ability to articulate. But we can try to catch a moment, yes?

So here’s one.

A burly young man named Scott lowers what used to be my brother into the small hole that he, Scott, cut this morning, with a spade. The hole is probably a foot square all around, and the soil is black. Scott did a terrific job on that hole; it’s just beautifully cut, the edges sharp and clean. Scott lowers the stone box containing my brother’s ashes into the hole, and then he leans back to be doubly sure all the other mourners are gone, and then he takes his spade and fills in around the box, and then he kneels again on a little square of plastic grass and smoothes the soil with his gloved hands—a gentle touch. Then he scatters some bluegrass, rye, and fescue seed on top of what used to be my brother. The stone will arrive in a couple of weeks, says Scott, and it just seems respectful to get some seed down.

While Scott was lowering my brother’s ashes into the hole, I saw not one but two herons float by to the west, and I tell you the honest truth when I say I had the urge to say to my brother, even now, “Hey, Kevin, look, herons!” But I didn’t. My brother would have immediately been able to tell me if...

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About the Author

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland.