The church was filled with dotted faces in the crowd, a crowd in mourning. Emily V. Ross had died at the age of 72 from natural causes. She was what some would call a spectacular woman with a spectacular existence. A man introduced himself before speaking of Emily, he was Thomas Fowler, her husband. He was the great love of her life but Emily had had many. Thomas was grateful for the wonderful years that he shared with her, but knew that many a men were once smitten by her wit and charm and everlasting vigor. They had all shared in his heartbreak and many of them were in attendance today. “As most of you know, I am Emily’s husband. I certainly wasn’t the first, but I am proud to say that I was the last.” The crowd let out a little chuckle and Mr. Fowler fighting back the tears from exiting his eyes and the obvious sadness in his heart, and he smiled. “I think most of you would agree with me she was quite something. Emily loved with all her heart, she was outspoken, strong willed, and quick tongued. You couldn’t beat her in a match of wits, and yet you loved to try. I never claimed her to be mine, she was my wife, but she was that free spirit, that wild horse that could not be tamed. Emily V. Ross was an angel from God, not to say that she committed no sin, but she lived her life to the fullest and died happy. She touched many people’s hearts, gave back to her community, helped anybody in need that she could, and how many of us unworthy men did she make a better man for just being near her?” One man stood up, then another, and then several more. Thomas allowed the tears to flow freely, because he knew that they felt exactly as he did. The men one by one began to clap, and then the entire church. It was an unexpected reaction. Thomas began again, “Instead of mourning her passing, let’s celebrate her life. The life she shared with those of us blessed enough to know her and to be in this room today. Would anyone like to stand up and say a few words?” Mr. Theodore stood and made his way to the podium. He shook Thomas’ hand and took his place behind the microphone. He looked into the crowd of faces, most of which he recognized. Shy and exhausted from emotion he spoke slowly, sweaty palms on the birch wood stand. “I knew Emily well. I met her when we were in high school. We were 16 and I was a little misguided. I hated school, I hated my life, but somehow she seemed to make it all better. I remember her saying to me, “You are only worth what you are willing to give.” She had great dreams and made sure to fulfill as many as she could. Emily even agreed to go out with me when I asked. I could never figure out why.” The crowd of faces laughed and then hushed back quickly into a silence so that the man could finish. Mr. Theodore cleared his throat, choking back sobs that were ready to emerge at any moment. “She truly cared about me even though I never really gave her a reason to. She inspired me to join the football team, to do well in school, and even graduate. I can’t say that I accomplished much more than that other than to go on and marry a wonderful woman, and have beautiful children, and grandchildren. But, she did inspire me to try to be a good man, one deserving of my family. I have always tried to make you proud, Emily,” he said as he glanced toward the casket, where her lifeless body lay, peacefully and smiling. He shakily made his way down back to his seat where several people reached out to shake his hand, offering him empathy. Then Mr. Alan stood, a paunchy man who seemed to have a rough exterior, but was obviously just as saddened by Emily’s passing as anyone else in the room. “I met Emily in grade school, we remained friends for a lifetime, at least her lifetime. I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around at times, but she would always laugh off my angry demeanor. Emily always said that I was the silent gentleman, because when we were alone I felt I could be peaceful and happy. I could laugh and make her feel like I would always be there. We lost touch a few times throughout our years, but on her 40th birthday we decided to go skydiving. It was something that she always talked about doing but I never really took her seriously. It was kind of strange because even though it was her birthday, she picked me up and paid. Emily told me that my present to her was my presence. How could you say no to her? How could you not care? I think about the few guys that she dated that really treated her badly…I mean I guess a lot of us did at times, but nothing like them.” Mr.Alan was obviously getting angry and Mr. Theodore walked up to the podium to grab him away, at first Mr. Alan relented and yelled one last thing into the microphone before bursting into tears, face red and swollen. He said, “Those gentleman, and I use that term very loosely, are lucky to have not shown up today.” Little had he known at the time that one had, Mr. Michael Walters. He sat in the back and hung his head at Mr. Alan’s scornful words, and then he stood and walked toward the podium. The crowd gasped and whispered amongst themselves as he took his place and began…”Emily I can never say I am sorry enough. I cheated on you, lied to you, and betrayed you. I know you said once upon a time that you had forgiven me, but I knew I had hurt you pretty badly. I guess I couldn’t deal with the fact that so many men were in love with you. I was selfish, and I am sorry.” As Mr. Walters proceeded to walk away Mr. Alan stood and moved toward him, “I would hit you right now if I knew that it could change anything. But, she wouldn’t want me to do that though, she would want us to forgive you. I can’t say that I can but I will keep the peace for her.” Mr. Walters again hung his head and walked straight out of the church and Mr. Fowler again took control of the podium. “If it is one thing that Emily taught us it is that we have to forgive. She would’ve. I know that she is smiling down upon all of us, wishing us well, hoping to reunite with all her friends in heaven. Emily didn’t dislike the idea of heaven and tried to believe that it existed, I’d like to think that she was right and we will see her beautiful face again. I would give anything to hear her criticize me for putting my dirty shoes under the dining room table any day. I have gone into the kitchen and tried to prepare her chicken parmesan, the way she was taught to make it when she visited Italy one summer, long ago. Needless to say I couldn’t even come close. She taught me how to love and accept that love comes many times in life, in different ways. I cherish those moments late at night sitting on the porch when she would throw out some random words of wisdom. Emily would say that when life was good you could go out into the night and feel closer to the stars, the world would seem small and you would be a giant against it, but when things were going wrong in your life you would feel tiny and those stars would be harder to grasp. I would like to think that despite my love being somewhere above those stars that I could touch them, that we all could. I want to walk out of here and put her body to rest and reach above the trees and touch her hand, because she made my life good, forevermore.” The silence gave way to smiling faces and arms reaching toward the ceiling of the church, it’s white walls covered by tones of skin in every shade, reaching, reaching for what Emily V. Ross gave them. She gave people hope, she gave people unconditional love, and forgiveness. I want to be like Emily Ross. I want to continue to inspire myself and those in my life for years to come. I want everyone to remember that someone will be there reaching for them in the night, toward the stars, when they are gone because it means that much to be close to them again.