Nick, his mom and dad, and Mary sat in the second pew on the right hand side of Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church. One woman sat in the pew in front of them. There was no one else in church. In the aisle in front of the altar was the casket with a white pall draped over it. The casket held the body of Johnny Balboni. Off to the right of the altar stood a large white candle. It was the Easter candle and used for all funeral masses during the year. The Easter candle was lit and its flame danced. There were candles on each side of the altar, both were lit.
The priest and two altar servers came out of the side of the altar and began mass. Johnny’s mass took fourth-five minutes. The burial service would talk place after mass in the Catholic cemetary behind the church. Nick and his parents and Mary left church after mass and walked to the cemetary. They followed the woman who sat in front of them.
The five mourners stood around an open and empty grave. A stand next to the grave awaited the casket. Nick was standing near the woman who sat in front of him in church. He said, “Did you know Johnny?”
The woman turned around and looked at Nick, “Yes, I knew Johnny. I’m his sister Josephine.”
Nick shook her hand and said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. He was such a good guy.
“What’s your name?” Asked Josephine.
“It’s Nick, Nick Moretti. This is my mom and dad, and this is Mary, she goes to school with me.”
Josephine nodded and said, “Thank you all for coming. Johnny didn’t have many friends. I didn’t think anyone would come.”
She turned back to Nick, “So you’re Nick Moretti. Johnny told me he was teaching you calculus. Sometimes he made stories up. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not.”
“It was true, Josephine. Without his help I would have been lost. I did really well on the math portion of the SATs because of Johnny’s help.”
Josephine smiled and hugged Nick, “I’m happy I met you. When Johnny was telling me the story it was the first time in years he seemed alive. He told me he was going to teach you everything he knew. It’s too bad he didn’t have a chance. He was a brilliant man.”
The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the casket and priest. The priest recited prayers and the graveside burial service was soon over. Nick placed his right hand palm down on the casket and said, “Thank you, Johnny. I promise I’ll do my best and never quit.”
Mary stood by Nick and put her arm around him. Nick whispered, “Thank you, Mary.”
“You will make Johnny proud, Nick. I know you will. I just know it,” said Mary with a strong sense of conviction in her voice.
Nick’s mom and dad were waiting in the car. Nick and Mary walked to the car holding hands.
Later that night at dinner, Nick’s Mom said, “Mary’s mom, Louise, is a signal mom, right?”
“Why don’t you invite Mary and her mom over for Christmas Eve dinner with us. We’ll have plenty of food. Uncle Tony will be here, he’s single and maybe I can play matchmaker. They’re both about the same age.”
Nick’s dad said, “You enjoy playing matchmaker. If Tony and Louise get together it will be your best Christmas present.”
Nick’s mom laughed, “I don’t like to see lonely people. The world needs to be filled with happiness.”
Nick said, “It’s a great idea. I’m going to call Mary right after dinner. I hope they’ll accept.”
Nick’s mom said, “I have a feeling Mary will convince Louise to come to dinner.”
Laura and Stella started laughing. Laura said, “You have a serious crush on Mary. Admit it.”
“We’re only friends,” said Nick.
“Right,” said Stella.
Will Mary and her mom accept the invitation to the Christmas Eve dinner? Will Uncle Tony and Louise like each other? The Christmas story continues.