The day was gray and humid. Ceiling fans spun throughout the eulogies. Programs were waved in front of faces as hand fans. There would be two more funerals on Saturday, in Memphis. Charles Ford was going to be buried in his Jackson State jersey. Number 5.
"We were supposed to be going to California today," Annette Conner, Casey's mother, said softly after the service. "We were going there for the pro football draft. Darion's agent was having everyone out there. It was going to be a party on Sunday."
The line of cars behind the hearse seemed to stretch for miles. The route went down one street and then another, onto a highway and then onto Prairie Point Road. The cars passed the tree where the accident had occurred and then Howard Hill, where three little kids were playing basketball on the dirt court. The final stop was the Prairie Point Baptist Church. The silver bus was almost as large as the church. Casey was buried in a small cemetery beside the building.
"You know, it could have been me," a young guy named Amos Stiger told I.D. Conner, Casey's father, after everything was over. "I had an accident just like that. October 22 last year. I fell asleep. I totaled the car. Two guys from the Weyerhaeuser plant pulled me out of the wreck. The same thing could have happened."
"The Lord didn't want you," I.D. said.
The cars were leaving. There would be a reception at the house. Casey's father was wearing a suit, but he leaned on a shovel. He had brought it in case the gravediggers forgot. They did not forget. He was bringing the shovel home.
"I could have hit the cement culvert," Stiger continued. "If I had hit the culvert, I'd have been gone."
"The Lord didn't want you to hit the culvert," the father said. "If the Lord wanted you to hit it, you'd have hit it. He didn't want you. He didn't want Darion. He didn't want Lloyd. He didn't want me.
"The Lord just wanted Casey."