Springtime brought a happy mood to Whitebridge cemetery. Fresh flowers in vivid colours of red, orange and yellow were speckled amongst the earthy grays and browns of the grave stones. It was as if a celestial artist having seen the cemetery and thought it drab decided to splash around the colours of the rainbow.
Amanda hugged herself and tried to rub off the goosebumps erupting on her arms as a cool breeze blew through the lonely place. She walked slowly, wanting to get there but not too quickly.
She read the names and inscriptions on the headstones and plaques as she passed. Countless dead, fondly remembered and missed by their friends and family. It was comforting to know that she was not alone in having lost a loved one.
As she walked on she wondered how they had all died. Not in a morbid way, but out of curiousity. Didn’t we all wish to die peacefully in our sleep having lived a full life and seen our children have their own children ? How many though, had been taken in tragic circumstances, in freak accidents ? Before their time. Suffering dehumanizing pain and fearing death. Leaving those close to them grief stricken, traumatized and mystified.
Her vision blurred as tears surged in her eyes. She was close now. Near enough to see the gleaming cross shaped marble plaque. She could hear herself breathing.
Wincing from the pain in her shin where a steel rod held together smashed bones, Amanda tried to kneel but lost her balance and fell on her side. Instinctively she reached for her growing bump. This baby, now six months old in her womb, was all she had left of the man she loved. Her baby would never know his father, Corey.
She whispered his name as she stroked her bump.
This was the first time since the funeral that Amanda had come to visit Corey’s grave. She wanted to come earlier but could not. Even now as she cried, torn apart by grief and guilt she wondered why she had come. What good was it doing?
No one could convince her she was not at fault. She had been driving and there was no other vehicle involved. She alone was to blame and she could not - would not be comforted. Although her guilt was a crushing weight, she was determined to carry it through her life because she believed she deserved to suffer.
She remembered them saying how lucky it was that the baby had not been harmed and that she would recover from her injuries. They said it was a miracle and she should be thankful. Her grief turned to anger as she recalled the platitudes delivered in the name of comfort. Why should she feel comforted? Why should she feel better? Corey was never going to feel better. He was never going to feel anything. He was gone.
The only man she ever loved, the father of her unborn child was dead because of her carelessness. How dare anyone call that a miracle.
She was not grateful. Amanda was bitter and angry and she would not forgive herself.
Standing up slowly she clenched her teeth as pain shot through her leg. She wiped her eyes and looked around the deserted cemetery. Again she felt an affinity with the relatives of the dead.
She noticed the grass and wildflowers growing where they wished. Unrestrained. Ants crawled, bees buzzed and butterflies bounced from flower to flower. So much life among the dead.
In the stillness Amanda fancied she heard a voice in the wind. A soft and peaceful voice. She imagined it was Corey calling to her and reaching out to comfort her. She closed her eyes and although she knew the answer she asked him if he would return to her.
There was no answer but Amanda knew that she would have to continue on the journey without Corey. She would never understand why. Why she had lost control of the car on that corner she had rounded hundreds of times before? Why Corey had died instead of her? Why their baby suffered nothing from the trauma of the accident? Why fate or God or whatever had deemed that she live and raise the child alone?
She looked back at the cross on Corey’s gravestone and remembered her husband’s unshakable faith. That inner peace she admired which shone in his face and sparkled in his eyes. The God whom Corey loved and trusted had taken him home. That’s how Corey would have said it. Taken home.
“God has his reasons, honey,” he would often say to her.
It never meant much before, but now as she stood hugging herself in the silence she felt close to him. She accepted that God has his reasons and she received strength, and she received forgiveness. Amanda was not sure if it was God calling to her or Corey but it did not matter for in that moment she forgave herself.
Placing both hands on her swollen stomach, Amanda whispered to her unborn child,
“Come on Corey, let’s go home. Mummy feels much better now.”
D.A. Cairns is married with two teenagers and lives on the south coast of New South Wales where he works part time as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had more than 20 short stories published (but who’s counting right?) He blogs at Square pegs http://dacairns.blogspot.com.au His second novel, Loathe Your Neighbor, is available from Artema Press. http://dacairns.weebly.com
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