John had been called to Bill Powell’s bedside in the two-story brick house at the end of a white concrete drive—the one carefully edged from its encroaching nature at the seams of all the rock and bed and border.

Bill Powell had pulmonary fibrosa and lay in a fearful state of breathlessness—confounded that the God to whom he’d devoted all his life and retirement and much of his 401K would leave him struggling like this at the end.

Jo Love Powell greeted John herself at the front door with her hair pulled back in pins and a colorful scarf at her neck. “He’s on the first floor,” she explained without a hint of the fatigue John had expected from a grieving almost-widow. “In the sunroom.” John let Jo Love take his coat. He hadn’t been to the house before.

H recognized several women from the church as he followed Jo Love deeper into the house. At the dining table, Helen and Mary Margarete and what was her name from the women’s choir? It began with a J, a soprano he thought. They were arranging plastic wrapped bowls and casserole dishes. John remembered his mother saying not to ever bring a dish to the sick or dying you wanted back. The last thing a grieving person needed to deal with was arranging for the return of somebody’s mama’s crystal stuffed egg dish to its proper owner. Give them a decent inexpensive Pyrex, his mother said, as if John at Harvard at thirty-five would be dealing with a rash of funerals any time soon.

He thought about it now, reaching his hand to Mary Margarete, and in turn to Helen, and the soprano.

John followed Jo Love into the sunroom, the whispers of the congregants falling down and away mingled with the click of Jo Love’s house shoes.

She was so completely put together.

John imagined a woman on the cusp of widowhood with a red nose and blotchy cheeks, hair in disarray with the color faded at the part, at the temples. She’s be wearing an oversized sweater she kept tugging around herself—the cold ever-present—and she’d have a cloth handkerchief held over her mouth like a convalescent. Her friends would surround here making those noises women and doves make.

At the sunroom’s threshold, Jo Love announced, “Bill,” she said, “The new minister is here.”