At the beginning of the story, Kira is in the Field of Leaving grieving over her dead mother.
In Kira’s society, a person has to wait for four days for the spirit to leave the body of the loved one.
Her mother had been dead now for four days, and Kira could tell that the last of the spirit was drifting away. (ch 1)
Kira’s mother was named Katrina. Her father died when she was a baby, so she only had her mother. Since Kira is crippled, she has to have a walking stick to walk. She worries about being alone, because her society usually does not allow crippled children to live and she is only alive because her mother saved her.
The opening of the novel is significant because it shows us that Kira is vulnerable and alone. As she waits for her mother's spirit to leave, she is reminded that she now has nothing and no one. She thinks about the animals picking at her mother's body. She follows the custom of waiting four days, even though her mother did not follow the custom of killing children with impairments.