Donna Sykes tells the priest presiding at her teen son’s service, “I’m glad he’s gone.”

A boy’s love of his car brings a dark cloud over the people in his life.

Enjoy the story.

I’m Glad He’s Gone

Bob Gillen

The gray-haired priest stood in front of the closed casket in the crowded funeral home.

“Hail Mary, full of grace…”

The mourners picked up the prayer. “The Lord is with thee…”

Donna Sykes sat alone in the front row. She wore a gray business suit. A dark shade, just short of black. Her lips moved to the prayer, but no sound came out of her mouth. No tears were visible.

The priest finished the prayers, made the sign of the cross over the casket, took off his purple stole, and turned to the woman.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Sykes.”

“Thank you.”

“The Lord will help you find strength to get through this. Losing a son, a teen son on the cusp of life,  is a deep tragedy.”

Donna grimaced. “You know something, Father? I’m glad he’s gone. I had no control over him any more.”

The priest took a step back.  Blinked away his surprise.    

Donna turned away from him. Several mourners stepped forward to speak with her.

The priest nodded to some of the mourners as he headed for the exit.

Two teen girls, one on crutches, entered the back of the room. They both wore black dresses. The one on crutches had a navy blue paisley bandanna over her head, partially covering several gauze bandages and tape. They sat down in the back row.

“Donna, I’m so sorry. You must be going through hell.” A woman in black, a small black veil over her head, rosary beads wrapped tightly around one hand, took Donna’s hand. A few tears rolled down her cheek. Donna whispered, “Thank you.”

“And that flower display,” the woman pointed to an enormous spray of flowers near the head of the casket, “it’s so beautiful.”

“My company sent it,” Donna said.

The woman then moved around Donna and knelt in front of the casket. She crossed herself and mumbled a prayer.

After the mourners had greeted Donna and moved back to their seats, the girl in the back rose, hoisted herself on her crutches, and hobbled up to the front row. All eyes in the room followed her. Someone whispered, “She’s the one who was with him…in the car.”

The girl looked to Donna Sykes. No words came out of her mouth. She simply stared at Donna.

Donna patted the chair next to her. The girl sat down, her crutches stretched out in front of her.

“How are you feeling, Rosemary?” Donna asked.

Tears welled up in the girl’s eyes. “Okay, I guess. Doctors say my leg will be healed in a month or so.”

Donna looked over her shoulder, said in a low voice, “I just told the priest I was glad he was gone…I couldn’t control him any more.”

Rosemary drew back. “Did you really mean that?”

“In a way, yes. I had no influence on him at all. He did whatever he wanted to.”

Rosemary sat silent. 

“That car,” Donna continued in a low voice. “He worked his ass off to buy the car and pay for the insurance. I wanted him to save his money for college.”

“He loved the car,” Rosemary said. “It was his whole world… I think he loved it more than he loved me.”

“And me. Yeah, I get that.”

Donna took Rosemary’s hand.  “How did the accident happen? The police told me nothing.”

Rosemary said, “We were down on Shore Road. Just cruising. A guy in a GTO pulled up next to us at a red light. He revved his engine. Jesse did the same. When the light turned green we both took off. A car backed out of a driveway. Jessie swerved to avoid the car and slammed into a tree.”

Donna said, “It’s a miracle you survived.”

“I put my hand on his arm just before we took off, to keep him from racing. He shrugged me off. It was the last thing he did. I didn’t know he was gone till I woke up in the hospital.”

Rosemary hesitated. “He loved you. He was so proud of buying his car. He wanted to take you for a drive. He said you were never around.”

Donna nodded. “I was entertaining clients almost every night. Selling ad space is a tough business.”

A tear finally worked its way down Donna’s cheek. “For me that car stood in the way of Jesse’s future. He wouldn’t talk about college at all. Shut me down every time I brought it up.”

Donna wept openly now. She gripped Rosemary’s hand. “I’m alone now…and I will miss him.”

Rosemary reached her arm around Donna’s shoulder. “For what it’s worth…I’m here.”

Donna dug a tissue out of her purse and wiped her eyes. “It’s worth a lot..”