By Tony DeLorger © 2011
Quietly, pensively I sit. The aged oak table under my hand is so battered and scrubbed, its dark striations now like ridges separated by canyons. Its surface barely able to hold a cup upright is a rich gold under the flickering firelight, the long shadows dancing with each lick of the flame. My eyes are glazed, my expression vacant, lost within my muddled thoughts. I know only the warmth of the fire and the darkness that surrounds me.
Sarah now at rest lies within the cold dank earth, the flowers that expressed her vibrant life wilting in the night chill, draped and lifeless, colours fading. Her flesh, once soft and radiant, is now drying and sallow at the mercy of the mother, the transformation, dust to dust. I cannot bare the thought and quickly try to think of something else.
The room is so empty, alone. It’s never felt so alone. I can’t even feel my own presence, my own heart beating. I feel lost, between worlds, neither here nor there. I close my eyes and feel tears returning. They ascend like a fountain from deep within me and the emotion like rancid food erupting holds me tightly. I tremble under the force of it and break down, sobbing like a child.
Heartache is all there is, all that can be. How will I live without her touch, her smile, her exuberance? How can I validate life without the one person who made it worthwhile? I lay my head down on the table and hide from myself, hoping in some way to avoid this bad dream. But life has chosen me to remain; I’m just not sure if I choose it.
As the first rays of morning gently dust the walls of this inner sanctum, my consciousness slowly returns. I straighten my back and look out the window into the world. Then Sarah returns; the harsh reality. I feel the weight of it come back, like led around me, pulling me down. My heart, momentarily distracted, now sinks into the depths of despair, open, bleeding, hopeless.
I step out onto the porch and feel the sun on my face. Its warmth reminds me of life, what it used to feel like. The sky is clear, a deep blue, vast and unblemished. I lean against a porch post and it makes a creaking sound, as if to respond to me. This old cabin has done me well I muse, through the deepest winter to the dead heat of summer. As sturdy as the day I built it, it weathers but never dies.
I peer out to the walnut tree on the hill, the silhouette of Sarah’s tombstone under its laden branches. The sun remains low in the sky and its light brings the stone to life, like a spotlight, its golden hues a ring around the grave.
I am drawn to it, as if it were calling to me. My heart, still burning, tells me to be there on that hill, with my Sarah. I walk slowly up the path to the hill and stand over the grave, the light ethereal and somehow comforting. Beneath me Sarah lies, the morning so far from her, the warmth denied. I fall to my knees and touch the cold earth beneath me. Tears now falling, my emotions raw, I try to remain calm.
The light is reflecting from the stone, so bright I can no longer look at it. The warmth is so compelling I can only surrender to it. I close my eyes and I can see her face; such a beautiful face. Her eyes seem so comforting, so resolute, as if accepting her fate. I suddenly feel guilt, and I’m not even sure why.
I look up into the spiralling branches of the walnut tree. It is mesmerising and the morning light is flickering within its leaves, like a display of sunlight on rippling water. On the ground the fruit of the tree has begun to fall, walnuts everywhere. Not a one yesterday, but now they’re abundant. I pick one up and feel its vibrancy. I’m surrounded by life and my Sarah lies cold beneath me. It seems so unfair.
I understand now. I get to me feet and look down on the stone. ‘You want me to live, don’t you Sarah? It’s what you’re saying, what you want.’
I crouch down and gently kiss the stone. ‘I’ll miss you my love. And one day we’ll be together again; I know that.’
As I walk down the path toward the cabin, I feel less weighed down. If for no other reason, I’ll live for Sarah, live for both of us. It’s all I can do. It’s not goodbye, it can’t be. It’s just life.
I sat on the step for over an hour, with a strong cup of coffee, reliving memories and thanking God for having them. The sadness will hold me for a time, but I know that Sarah will always be with me. In that I believe.