Kathleen Sullivan Buckley set her jaw and her hat against a cold north wind as she walked toward her husband’s funeral.
God forgive me, she thought. Even hell is too good for the bastard. Suddenly feeling naked against the gale and her own raw feelings, she stopped for a moment to gather herself together, took a deep breath, and felt the sting of unrepentant hatred flood her soul.
Preoccupied with her sinful thoughts, Kathleen failed to keep up with her mother, Rose, who walked ahead and stopped suddenly at the steps leading up to the church. The older woman looked frail. One small, knurled hand ravaged by arthritis gripped a rosary, while the other gathered her cloth coat about her throat in an effort to keep out the gnawing April wind. Scott Buckley’s expensive bronze casket was being carried past the rustic Stations of the Cross that stood outside the adobe-styled church, and when Kathleen caught up with her mother the sight of the casket momentarily jarred her.
Rose pulled a handkerchief out of her coat pocket and dabbled at her eyes. She looked apprehensively over at her daughter. “I’m sorry, Kathleen--sorry for it all.” Kathleen nodded but did not answer. Instead, she felt a sudden, sharp pain in her left clavicle. Automatically, she reached up to rub it and reflected on her mother’s remark, which flung a long, dark shadow back through her years with Scott, years that had moved her into middle age and stripped her of her faith in the Roman Catholic Church.
Kathleen turned away from the casket, trying to hide the malice in her eyes and for a moment she took in the breathtaking red rock scenery of Sedona. Here it was, just a few days past Easter, and the vermilion buttes were still dressed in a mantle of white, accenting the redness of the rocks. The recent spring snow storm had descended upon the tourist community as suddenly as Pentecost.
The scene before her was like stepping back in time two thousand years. Three life-size crosses representing the crucifixion stood across the parking lot from St. John Vianney Catholic Church, acting as a backdrop to the open vista of imposing buttes. The stark landscape spread as far north toward Oak Creek Canyon as the eye could see, somehow reminding Kathleen of the Holy Land, although she never knew why. She had lived in the northern Arizona community for more than a decade and never ceased to be amazed at its striking scenery. As she took in the view, Kathleen involuntarily shrugged her shoulders as if to shake off her attachment to the place. Her six months away from Sedona only made her realize the red rock monoliths were both its blessing and its curse, and perhaps her own. She may have left Sedona to save herself, but the splendor of the place was burned into her being.
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