The time had come to say goodbye to Josephine Falcone once and for all. A crowd of mourners, all dressed in black, made for a stark contrast against the welcoming daylight. Their faces were fixed in what appeared to be permanent scowls, hidden beneath black veils and hats that shut out any comfort or compassion.
Louise and Michael sat beside the grave as the priest began his service. Behind them stood the Bains and Gardners, offering what little consolation they could. The scene horrified Peter Falcone as he watched from across the grave, restrained by two seemingly robotic guards. Not only had he lost his wife, but his son was slipping further and further away from him with each passing day.
“Our Father, who art in heaven…” began the priest. Michael could not listen. His eyes remained fixed on the ornately dressed casket before him, bouquets of his mother’s favorite red roses were in abundance. She was never one for simplicity. He began to break out in a sweat as he reflected back on the past few weeks and what his mother had meant to him. Had she betrayed him? Or had she done the best thing she could for him? Either way, the lies and the deceit racked his tired brain.
“Now, I believe Josephine’s cousin Philomena has a few words to say,” said the priest.
Louise and Michael looked up in surprise at the mention of the name. They had not seen cousin Philomena in over seven months, and her last visit had not necessarily been a happy occasion. It was a strange feeling to see Josephine’s rival appear to speak well of her.
A short little woman with wrinkling skin and gray hair, Philomena approached the casket. Clad entirely in black, she lifted her veil and dried her tears with a handkerchief. “I’ll be brief with what I have to say…God knows Josephine would’ve wanted it that way…” she began, “Josephine and I rarely ever saw eye to eye. Come to think of it, I don’t know that we ever agreed on much of anything. She was a strong-willed, opinionated, mule of a woman who would do whatever it took to get her way.”
Gasps erupted from the crowd. “Of course, I never would’ve admitted it, but…well, that’s what I loved about her. She did what she thought was best, and never questioned whether her means were right or wrong. Her moral compass might’ve had its flaws, but it was always in the best interests of herself and those she loved. I respected her for it, and I don’t know that I’ll ever meet another woman like her,” said Philomena. She glanced to the casket and laid another rose on top, “God bless you Josephine, and thanks for being a worthy opponent.”
Michael squirmed in his seat as Philomena spoke. He had never considered his mother to be a reasonable woman, or at least one who knew what she was doing and why. Perhaps she had been there for Michael and done what was right for him. Michael began to rub his temples. Covering his face with his hands, he began a quiet, controlled cry.
Louise put her arm around her husband as she stared back at the coffin. It was true, Josephine had made her life a living hell, yet, for as extreme as her situation was with her mother-in-law, she had done it all for her son. The insults, the judgments, they were all to make sure that Michael had the best girl for him. She was a mother.
She was one of a kind, and no one could replace her. Peter Falcone knew that, but someone would need to guide his son now that she was gone and he was behind bars. Her life had been taken in the blink of an eye, but her influence would be needed far beyond that day of sadness.