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Act III, Section 2
While Joe Stoddard is supervising the newly dug grave, Sam Craig, Emily's cousin through marriage, saunters in. Since he has lived in Buffalo the last twelve years, he does not recognize Joe and introduces himself. He explains that he has come to Grover's Corners to attend Emily's funeral. Joe says that he hates it when a young person, like Emily, must be laid to rest.
Sam tries to identify the names on some of the tombstones. He finds the grave of his aunt, Mrs. Gibbs, and of Simon Stimson. He wonders if they and the other deceased people have chosen their own epitaphs. Simon's epitaph is most appropriate, because it includes musical notes. Seeing Sam's interest in Simon's grave, Joe tells him that that the choir director had committed suicide. Sam then asks Joe about Emily's death. He is told that she passed away during the birth of her second child and left behind a little boy about four years old.
The spirit of Mrs. Gibbs appears; she calls forth the rest of the spirits and tells them that Sam is her nephew. The spirit of Simon Stimson states that he always feels uncomfortable when the living are around. Their conversation is interrupted by four men, who enter and carry an invisible casket. Following the casket are many familiar faces, including Emily's bereaved husband George and Doc Gibbs. The spirit of Mrs. Soames asks about the new arrival to the graveyard. Mrs. Gibbs states that it is her daughter-in-law, who died in childbirth. Mrs. Soames thinks about the beautiful wedding of Emily and George; she also remembers visiting their new farm.
The spirit of Emily emerges from the procession; she is dressed in white with her hair tied back. She appears to almost be in a trance. She looks longingly at the living and then crosses over to take her seat among the dead. As soon as she exchanges greetings with her fellow spirits, she feels as if she has been away from the living for thousands of years; however, since she is still a newcomer amongst the dead, she is nervous and uneasy.
The funeral service that has been going on finally comes to an end, and the procession leaves the cemetery. Emily decides that she will revisit the world of the living and survey the life she had lived on earth. Mrs. Gibbs warns her against it, and the other spirits join in trying to dissuade her. She, however, will not change her mind. She decides that she will go back and relive her twelfth birthday. The Stage Manager correctly states that going back into the world will surely disappoint Emily.