the July sun was setting, Bonny Christina Celine was alone in
Calvary Cemetery in the Martineztown section of Albuquerque. Aside
from her thoughts, the only thing she heard was the din of traffic
from the nearby Big I, where Interstate 25 meets Interstate 40.
She had come to tell a friend goodbye.
Gonzales was the receptionist in Celine's business office. A few
days earlier Dolores had gone into surgery for the removal of
what seemed to be a benign tumor. Something went wrong, and she
died in the operating room. She was just 32.
Celine was inconsolable.
She did not attend the burial, but a few hours later was sitting
at the foot of her friend's grave. She planned to stay until the
sun was gone.
In the deepening gold
she remembered how much Dolores had loved to laugh. She recalled
the joy Dolores brought to work each day, the pride she felt for
her job and her young son, the big smile for everyone, the playful
elbow in the ribs.
She remembered that
Dolores' favorite thing was dancing, into the wee hours. Dolores
was the life of any party, and anywhere she went became a party.
But now the party was over.
The death was a total shock. Nobody was ready for it. Dolores
had worked the day before she went to the hospital, and everyone
from the office was planning to visit her there as she recuperated.
But Celine was away from work on that last day, and did not bid
her friend farewell. Now she was trying to apologize.
She could not tell
if she was getting through. The only thing she felt in the stillness
was a crushing grief. Then without warning the silence of the
dead was broken.
Through the cemetery's
entrance came a procession of five automobiles. Two were stretch
limousines, shiny gray and adorned with flowers and crepe-paper
streamers. The cars drove slowly past Celine, and stopped at a
headstone down the way. The doors popped open. Like a flock of
doves, out flew a wedding party into the golden light.
The pretty teen-aged
bride was in sequined white. Her proud new husband and his handsome
Hispanic groomsmen were tuxedoed in black. The bridesmaids all
wore cobalt blue, and the dress of someone's mother was shimmering
pink. Moist with recent summer rains, the graveyard that enclosed
them was as green as a garden.
They held hands in a circle around the grave. Sounds of laughter
and happy Spanish singing floated through the tombstones of Calvary
Cemetery. Prayers were said, and memories were called back to
life. Every celebrant lifted a long-stemmed goblet, and each was
filled to the brim with pink champagne.
From the little hill
on which she stood, Celine could hear the clink of crystal. She
felt thrilled, blessed, awed. Without moving or speaking she gazed
down on the fiesta, while her thoughts drifted back over the festival
occasions of her own life: lawn parties in New England, square
dances on the Dakota prairie, powwows in the Indian Country of
Oklahoma, hoedowns in southern New Mexico. Yes, she reminded herself,
there is truly a time for every purpose under heaven.
The sky softened to
pinks and violets, and still the celebration went on. Suddenly
Celine felt an elbow poking her lightly in the ribs. Or maybe
she only imagined it, as well as the voice that was saying: "They
must have loved that person very much--but it's Saturday night,
and now those young people should be going out to dance."
As though hearing the
same voice, the wedding party jumped back into the rented limousines
and the other cars. Again the procession filed past Celine. This
time everybody waved gaily at her. In the last light of day, she
waved back at them all, and smiled.
Articles by Richard McCord