grief. acceptance. loss of a loved one.

His boots scrape along the dirt road like black chalk on black asphalt. No trace of existence. Life is a mystery like that. No indent or significance. No trace left behind.

‘It’s peaceful here,’ he thinks. The barren land in front of him. The vacant space on the bench beside him. No more wind. No more sound. Only the seafoam blue sky and the hurling white clouds exist. The forecast called for sunshine but the sun coyly sneaked behind the clouds most of the morning. The afternoon holds better promise for warm autumn weather.

He holds his breath for a moment and exhales slowly out his worries.

No more dance of birds and their songs. No more trees sharing their age and wisdom. A life dissolves and mutes all the noise that it once carried. But he figures that the silent echo perseveres. Memories hold on. The present remains and he submerges his thoughts into the ocean. The trip Jane and he once took. The waves washed their feet and the gold sand. It was almost heavenly. Just the two of them walking, holding hands and Jane’s laughter, a glitter of sound and then gone. ‘Hold on,’ he almost utters because as fast as the memories appear, as fast they vanish. A brief glimpse. Life is a mystery like that.

The fear of his minuscule life amid the vast and wide empty landscape threatens his purpose. No different than Jane’s intense gaze would spin his core and confidence. But, he submerges once more into the solitude of the moment and the influence of silence he chooses to create by masking what is real. After all, he’s not alone and the world isn’t silent. The sun still exudes warmth no matter its distance and kisses his skin with vibrancy and fondness. The grass still shivers in the stillness of the air. And his mind never stops to wind, wonder, and admire.

Today is different. Today, silence must prevail. No scrutiny or questions. No more tears or grief. No more life dismissed. Jane’s presence must exist if only in his memories. ‘The Runaway Jane,’ he used to call her. The late dances after long days because everything can shatter in a blink and Jane would pull away from his arms to dance to her beat. The base of her heart held in his every step this morning. The walks have become longer with each passing day. Another yard. Another half a mile until he reached their favourite spot. The stone that they once engraved with their initials. It’s over thirty years now but the stone has slightly slouched with age; although the bench is new. Added less than a decade ago. He built it with care and the coat of new varnish helped the wood to withstand the time.

Life is a mystery like that. Those words are more often on his mind in recent days and he dissolves into the silence searching through the colours in his mind to find Jane’s light. Not her face or the touch of her hand. Rather, pure light, like the light of a distant star somewhere up there in the great unknown space and be one. United and soar through time but then shrink and stay still. So, he merges into the air around him. Feel its movement. Borrow its energy and absorb the meaning. Everything unites. We all become one, he figures. The distant echo of his wife near him now. He loses time and the length of his submersion within the energy until the compromise is made.

The hospice visits were long but not long enough. Her fingers felt like soft marshmallows pressing to his hand. “Joseph.” He liked how she called his name and with her last breath she whispered, “I love you.” Then silence.

© Jacob Greb — 2021

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