Friday, January 16, 2015

{Writing Prompt} The Vacant Day


[Just a note: I'm am excited to write fiction again and this is completely fiction. I'm not sure why this topic is my first post of fiction, but who really understands inspiration? The inspiration came from a TV show (One Tree Hill) when one of the character's mother dies. It is a powerful moment in the series and I wanted to write something powerful. Without any further delay... here's my writing prompt: a death in the family]

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This counter is always piled high with clutter. Stray pieces of mail and notes continuously mark the edges of the wide table. Flowers invariably flow out of a cherished vase my grandmother handed down to me with flowers petals falling onto the dark wood.

Today, though, it is clean. It is empty. A clear crystal vase sits vacant with no petals surrounding it's base. Not even one stray post-it note rests on the surface.

I sit here as empty as this table, as clear as the deserted vase. Wherever the clutter has disappeared, that is where I am too.

Loss comes in many different forms. It is dealt with in many different ways. I see my sister in tears and my brother full of anger. But I feel nothing.

I feel him before I see him. He enters the room behind me, a quiet presence, but a strong one, tuned precisely to me. Honestly, it's nice to feel something again, even if only for a moment. Peace, that is what he brings, however fleeting.

He sits down on the stool beside me, not saying a word. I can't look at his face, I can't even move. He takes my hand, but it is like he is reaching for someone else, like I am not present in my own body.

He lifts my hand in his, pressing a very soft kiss on the back of my hand. This gentle gesture is one that is familiar from his lips. It brings me back to him. My hand tingles, but then I remember why I don't want to feel.

"It's raining." I state. I'm not even sure if I'm talking to him. I surprise myself by talking at all.

"Of course it's raining. We live in Seattle." I sense the smile playing on his lips, though he and I both know this is not the time for humor. Then again, maybe this is the perfect time for humor. Maybe this is when we need it the most. But I don't feel like laughing.

"I think I am raining."

I don't know what I mean by this. I don't know what I think. I don't even know what day it is. All I know is that I am overcast. I can sense the dark clouds rolling in. I am preparing for a storm, but I don't believe it will come from the sky.

He says nothing. He knows me well. He stands and puts his arms around my shoulders, hugging me close to his chest. I can feel his warmth, and his reliable heartbeat. As he places a gentle kiss to the top of my head, I can feel myself waking up. This is not a good thing.

I let him hold me. I draw in his strength. I know I will need it later. I hold onto this void and stare at the vacant table. I never knew it was such a dark brown. Was it always like this? Did the grain always run so deep into the wood? I never noticed before.

***

The rain stops few events in Seattle. We stand vanquished in the graveyard as the ominous mist surrounds us. My sister has all but fainted in her husband's arms. My brother stands at attention with his fists red from his impervious grip. I stand tall with my husband behind me. He stands close, his presence a comfort, but he does not reach out to touch me. Again, he knows me so well. He knows that I have to stand on my own or I would not be able to stand at all. He gives me strength just by being there, just by being.

My daughter sings "Close to You" by the Carpenters. Her voice is more beautiful than an angel. That is something she and my mother shared. This song was one they shared. They shared so much, we shared so much. I admit this young lady, who is too young to know death, is dealing with it better than I. At least I know she feels. I see tears falling silently down her cheeks as she steps back in line with our family.

I am the oldest. I am supposed to keep it all together. I am supposed to be the fighter, the leader, the one everyone can lean on. I am none of those things. I am broken.

I am supposed to speak.

I do not know what I am supposed to say.

I turn to my husband as if he has any answers on this day. He doesn't. His gaze is one full of pride, love and peace.

Without him, I would be unable to do what I need now.

What do you say at your own mother's funeral? There just aren't words.

I don't step forward. I don't move. But somehow, I manage to speak.

"There aren't words." I say.

The whimpers from the larger than expected crowd silence. The eyes of those I love look to me, I can feel their weight. I can feel their expectation. It is a heavy burden to bear.

"When someone is loved so much, they never leave us. They may be gone in body, but their spirit is forever embedded in the ones they leave behind. My mom was loved by everyone who knew her. Whether they were family or friends, co-workers or strangers. She had a light inside of her that I have rarely seen in the world. I learned everything from her. How to cook, how to crochet and how to drive. How to be a good wife and a good mother. How to be a woman of worth. How to laugh in the face of adversity. How to live. I learned so much from her just by sitting beside her. There are not words that can describe the love my mom held because she never held onto it. She let it flow freely to anyone who came near her. That is a quality that I admire in her, one that I continue to strive for. My mom was loved by so many," I pause looking around, unable to see anyone in the back of the crowd. I wonder if they can even hear me? "She is with us each today. She loved you so much. Her light will continue to shine in each of you. There is no greater legacy. I love you mom."

My breath catches. My husband rests his hand on the small of my back. I know that I can stop. That is enough. I have said what needed to be said.

A few others speak. My aunt has a word to say as well one of my cousins. I know they were delivering beautiful words, but I couldn't understand any of them. Neither my brother or sister speak. This does not surprise me. My husband doesn't speak. This does surprise me. But not enough to truly register in the moment.

People are leaving now. It is finished. I stand where I am.

My husband leans into my ear, "Do you need a minute?"

My answer is a barely perceivable nod.

I see him take our daughter's hand out of the corner of my eye. As they walk away I hear her question, "Is mommy going to be okay?"

I sense more than see him glance back at me planted where I stood staring straight ahead, "Yes sweetie. Mommy is going to be okay. It will just take time."

Only his voice could penetrate my darkness.

He knows me so well.

I find comfort in his words. They are honest and true. Our daughter will take comfort in them too. But right now, there is nothing. Just me and the flowers. So many flowers. My words were true. My mother was loved. We only expected about 50 people to show up to the funeral. Over 300 came. Even I did not know how far my mother's love reached. I am touched. Or I will be. In time.

I take three flowers out of the arrangement closest to me. They are bright orange orchids, my mom's favorite. The ribbon draped over the wreath says Mother. Of course my remarkable husband would know exactly what to get. He always knows what I need.

I place one bright orange stem on the casket. Two men are waiting for the family to leave so they can get to work. They are trying to be patient, but I understand, they still have lives to live. Someone has to bury the dead.

With two orchids still in my hand, one for me and one for my daughter, I turned around and walked away. There was nothing else to say. When you love someone the way I love my mom, all the words have already been said time and time again.

Now it was time to live.

**********


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