Even the sky grieved. Gray and bleak, the wind cried out in lamentation, sending leftover pockets of old snow onto stark marble gravestones. Mourners passed by, eyes forward, each lost in their own world of respectful sadness. They walked along in silent groups, no one engaging in small talk or forced levity. Their task was much too grave for such normal pleasantries.
The enormity of what they were there to witness was etched onto every face. Time stood still as the horror of his mother’s jagged screams followed the simple wooden coffin to its journey’s natural end. The earth was piled high in anticipation, several shovels at the ready as they lifted and carried him from the conveyance. They lovingly placed rocks on the family headstone. One for every year of his short life and beyond, venturing into unmined decades never to come. A lifetime of promise gone in an instant as the wind kept up its relentless vigil.
Soft as a whispered prayer, his soul hovered in the wind. He couldn’t comfort his father or still the tears of his poor mother, he could only observe from afar. A bystander to the final act of his brutally short life. He hadn’t meant for things to go so far, never imagining a single rash decision would cost him so dearly.
The prayers were all said, the garments torn and rendered as one by one, they lined up to return him to the earth. Dust to dust, his brothers took up their sad burden. The first “shunk” of dirt landing on the coffin caused the assembled mourners to jump in alarm, the finality and irrevocable nature of the day overtaking them at last.
As they packed the earth down around him and said the final prayers, the sky opened up and grieved in earnest. The sleet came down in sheets, washing clean the obscene spectacle of a thirteen-year-old boy being laid to rest in the hard, cold ground of eternity.
The old man woke himself up with a start, he had been having the dream again. It seemed to be getting more and more intense as he neared his ninety-third year. He never thought he would live this long, blessing the long ago day when the rope snapped and dropped him like a ton of bricks down onto the barn floor. The troubles from eighty years ago had faded completely from his mind. He was damned if he could remember who or what had led him to such an action, only that he was extremely grateful at the outcome. Grateful for his long life.
Picture frames covered every inch of the room, his family bringing them from home for him to see. Children, grandchildren, two greats and one newborn great-great grandson adorned an entire wall. Next to them hung his high school graduation picture, his long deceased parents smiling with pride. He had been the first in his family to achieve such an honor.
An impossibly young man beamed out at his old eyes, uniform pressed and at the ready in the days following Pearl Harbor. A Congressional Medal of Honor adorned the space next to his military photo, given to him after he had gone back for several of his brothers on the blood-drenched shores of Iwo Jima.
A beautiful young woman in satin and lace looked up at his younger self in adoration, giving him over sixty years of love before taking her leave of this world. God, how he missed her!
The man continued to reminisce in the uneasy sleep of the very old, his large family surrounding him as he took his final breath. They all understood, even if he did not, how many were affected by his presence on earth. How many lives were created. How many were saved. How one life had made all the difference.
As he closed his eyes for the final time, the old man and tempestuous young boy were finally reconciled. Joined as one in eternal slumber, his soul took flight as the sky grieved and the wind cried out in lamentation.
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