Skip to content

The Burial

by Herbert Woodward Martin

Artwork, “Bound” by Lyle Rushing


Lawd Chile, did you see how they put away Sistuah Mary?  It makes me ashamed to call her Sistuah! Just dumped her in that raggedy ass box they called a coffin, and laid her out in the church Lawd and came in there cry and screaming “Don’t go Mama! Lawd have mercy on us! Now you know they went somewhere like, The Salvation Army and bought something that said nothing about salvation, and represented nothing close to an army. You know what I think?  I think Old Brother Malachi sent those children to the Goodwill, and what they bought for $198 was good for noting, and demonstrated they had neither will, nor gumption, nor determination. They simply wanted to be done with Sistuah Mary.

And I am here to tell you that I hope the Lawd will surely have had some mercy on them, for the way they put their mama away. Much as she did for them all of their lives, didn’t spare a cent for their needs and when it came to her turn, they couldn’t be bothered. Now, you know they could have scrapped up a few nickles and dimes from somewhere. I mean she spent her life seeing that they went to school, and had new clothes for every holiday, and for what, to be cast aside like a no good old dog? And the dress they put her in put her in, she wouldn’t have worn to her garbage can! I am telling you and I am telling you for true, they ought to be ashamed the longest day they live or until their dying day comes. It is a shame, I mean a crying shame, the things they found to put on their mama. I don’t see how they are able to hold up their heads in this community. I am telling you it sure, it seemed like it was payback time for they did not rise to the challenge; they were deaf to the call of duty, and they seem to not know what the charge was they had before them , nor the God they were supposed to glorify!

I tell you the children we are raising these days aren’t worth the collected spit we have in our mouths. Don’t get me to preaching. Black people know they are supposed to do better; they are   raised to do better! Uhuh! Uhnh! Uhuh!

Well I had a little talk with Sistuah’s  oldest girl, and what she told me ought to tickle you pink, because it made me laugh, when she looked me squarely in the face and told me that her mother had told her: Don’ you let that Undertaker take you for all the money you have and a little more you’ll have to come up with later. Put that dress on me that I have worn to church for years; I liked it when I was alive and it’s nice enough for me to meet the Lord in. No use for me to be putting on airs. And anyway, if my soul isn’t right and ready, no amount of money you put on me or you put in the ground is going to make any difference. So when  I die and it will happen as sure as you are standing before me, I want you to get a hold of yourself and your brothers and sisters, stop slinging snot, and shedding tears like you in the midst of the Forty-Day Flood. Pay attention to what I’m telling you, and to what you are doing!

So we did exactly what our mother told us to do.  

Well Honey, that knocked me over, knocked me for a loop! It shut me up. There wasn’t another word shared between us. I didn’t part my lips, you hear me? That shut me up fast and quick for sure. I mean who among us can argue with the dead?

That’s what I am here to tell you, because that’s exactly what she told me, her mother said.


Published inFictionChapel Hill