Leo looks around at us, then down at Debbie’s grave. He closes his eyes for just a moment, then starts to speak.
“Debbie once told me she felt like she was way too small, compared to the universe, to make a difference in it. She was afraid of its enormity, and afraid of her own insignificance,” he says. “She thought she could never be as big or as important as the universe.”
We glance at each other, unsure of where he’s going with this. It doesn’t really seem like something to be said at a funeral.
“Have you ever tried to count the number of colors in a rainbow?” Leo asks, addressing all of us.
His seemingly irrelevant words take us by surprise. Finally, Chris slowly says, “You can’t.”
Leo nods. “That’s because there are infinite shades of colors in a single rainbow. Blue, green, blue-green, blue-blue-green... the list never ends. But have you ever actually thought about that? The rainbow itself is finite, but what it contains is infinite. And that means that small things can contain a huge, mind-blowing amount of things.
“Well, Debbie was -- is -- that rainbow. Her physical form is finite, but her mind, the world inside her, the one that I’ve always loved... that is truly infinite.”
Now, Leo turns to Debbie, tears welling up in his eyes as he casts them upon her halcyon face. I can tell that, although there’s a crowd listening in, he’s speaking only for her ears.
“And that’s my answer to you, after all this time. You’re small, but you contain more than the universe itself. For the universe contains only finite objects, while you are and will always be... infinite.”
At last, a tear slides down his cheek and falls, tarnishing the churned-up ground with the anguish of a shattered heart.
At last, Leo steps back and wipes his tears, melting into the crowd. All that’s left is the whistle of wind in the leaves of the tree.
I’m so caught up in my own thoughts that I don’t even realize that Alex is speaking again until Gene nudges my shoulder. Looking up, I blush under the spotlight of dozens of eyes, realizing that Alex must’ve just asked me a question and is waiting for an answer.
“Uh... come again?” I ask nervously.
Alex sighs. “It’s your turn to speak, if you want to. Do you?”
“Er...” My voice trails off as I try to decide.
What would I say? What is there worth saying?
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, you know,” Gene says, his voice gentle.
My eyes wander over the crowd in front of me and settle on Leo. He’s watching me intently, as if he’s curious to see what I will do. The look on his face takes me aback, though. He looks almost reproachful, like he thinks I’m just another one of those fools -- like I wouldn’t honor the savior of my life.
I owe her this, I tell myself. I have to say something to honor her.
“I will,” I say.
Taking a deep breath, I summon all my courage and walk towards Debbie’s grave. The seconds stretch out. The journey takes minutes... hours... days...
Finally, I come to a stop.
“Hi, Debbie,” I start, aware of how awkward I am. Of how clueless I am when it comes to funeral eulogies.
“Um, well, I guess I didn’t really know you very well...” For the umpteenth time today, my voice peters out. What was I supposed to say, anyways? Tell her that I felt lucky to have been her friend? That I enjoyed working with her, enjoyed being the sacrifice that took her out of this world? Enjoyed getting her killed?
“Some things just can’t be described with words,” I say. “You are one of those things.
“You didn’t even know me. We knew each other for only a couple days before going on that mission together. And yet, you saved me. I don’t know why, and I never will. But you sacrificed yourself for me -- me, a stranger. You saved my life, and that’s a debt I can’t repay, not ever.”
I steal a glance at Leo. His expression is a mix of enervation and something else... respect? Relief?
Feeling reinvigorated, I forge on. I’m speaking to everyone now. “Debbie’s life was so much more than just a life, and her sacrifice was more than just a sacrifice. I thought she stopped fighting, but she actually only stopped fighting for herself. She never stopped fighting for me. And this isn’t the end. The number of lives she’s touched through her own... like Leo said -- infinite. Each one of those lives are changed forever because of Debbie Dong, and she lives on in those lives. She’ll forever be reflected in the things around her. The freedom of her spirit lives in the wind. The endlessness of her determination lives in the ocean. The eternity of her soul lives in the stars... and right here.” I touch my fingertips to my chest, where a faint thump-thump resonated through my ribcage. “In the hearts of every last one of us who have experienced her warmth.”
“Not only does she contain infinity. She will always be infinity.”
I turn to Leo. “Will you do the honors?”
He faces me, the dark pools of his eyes boring into mine.
“Yes,” he whispers, barely audible.
He reaches down with two cupped hands and fills them with earth. The old, musty smell fills my nostrils for just a moment.
Then he spills the dirt over Debbie’s body. He gathers up more dirt and lets it tumble down over her, covering her slim frame with its dark brown shades. Over and over again, until only the outline of her form is visible.
I bend down next to Leo and help him. We work side by side, silent but efficient. By the time we’re finished, the sun is well below the horizon.
Finally, Leo scatters one last handful across her grave.
“Good night, Debbie,” he whispers. “Sleep tight.”
And Debbie is gone.