It rained all night. The next morning, Daniel found a dead mole on his front lawn, victim of a flooded home. The sight of the tiny, lifeless drowning victim both saddened and repulsed him . A turn of nausea forced him to look away before retrieving a shovel from the garage to tend to it’s burial.
Although the rain had passed, a stiff breeze stirred a small shower of rainwater that had been clinging to the outstretched branches of the large, red oak tree standing overhead, chilling him to the core. Yet, he endured it with grim stoicism, returning to the place where the mole lay.
He carefully scooped up the corpse along with a little of the dirt and grass just near the small burrow where it was resting. He offered the smallest prayer of gratitude in the form of a nod and the release of breath he had been holding, and headed for the backyard. Picking out a spot under his largest tree, he rolled the body off the shovel on to the ground, dug down about a foot into the damp earth and laid the soil aside. Using the very tip, he gently rolled the body into the hole, sure to fill and tamp the hole firmly enough that the dogs wouldn’t easily disturb the grave.
Leaning on the shovel, he stood, eyes closed in solemn remembrance of all of the others he had buried over the years . He thought of their bodies becoming food for this grand tree, and reached out to touch the tree with no small amount of tenderness and gratitude. Even if he couldn’t yet feel it in his body, he could feel his rapidly approaching death in the mole buried at his feet.
In touching the tree, he had surrendered his stoicism. It’s stony wall began to crumble as salty tears slowly filtered into his mouth, and his eyes began to flow with wet, bitter sorrow. Sorrow, for the the years of his son’s life that he would never see. Sorrow, for the years that he had hoped to spend with his wife. Flashes of events he would never see emerged in his mind: Jacob’s graduation, he and Ashley’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, grandchildren. He mourned a fatherless child and widowed woman. The thought of their pain and loss was unbearable to him as he began to shake with the force of his tears.
With a deep, cleansing breath he ended his weeping.
He returned the shovel to its place on the garage wall, wiped his muddy boots off on the patio doormat, and entered the warmth of his home. Not wanting to track any of the dirt or rain onto the kitchen floor, he took a moment to pull off his boots and set them by the door to dry.
It was still early on a Saturday, but his son had risen nonetheless to join him at the kitchen table and share a sip of coffee.
Jacob, glancing at his fathers wet boots by the door asked, “So, whatcha been doing?”
Daniel nodded his head with a measure of gravity and sipped his coffee.
“I buried a critter this morning: a mole.”
Jacob met his father’s gaze with a dignity beyond what a ten-year-old boy should ever need to possess, as he nodded and sipped his own cup of coffee.