I wrote this post for this month’s Blog Exchange and had the honor of being voted Best of the Blog Exchange. I wrote it in the spirit of dark, Halloween, Edgar Allen Poe’s creepiness as in the “Black Cat.” Check out the other participants at the Blog Exchange HERE.
The Black Veil
It was autumn. Leaves fell from the trees in hues of burnt orange, amber red, and golden brown. Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. Sitting alone felt strange. Surrounded by people, yet so alone. No one should be alone at a time like that. I soaked in the words of those around me. She was a good woman. She always put her family first. She loved her family. She was always there. She was strong, witty, and ornery. She always helped her friends. She was a friend to all those around her. What a pity. Life will never be the same. The crowd giggled as one by one, mourners told their tales and shared their fondest memories. Even the most flattering phrases were hardly a comfort at a time like this. It was all so surreal.I tried to stand, but my body felt limp, lifeless, like it was not my own. I felt as though I could not breathe.
I recognized the familiar faces around me. When I tried to reach for a hand, I could not raise it. I attempted to will it forward; it was rigid, fixed, and locked into position. I was in a state of shock, I told myself. I had read about this phenomenon before. Paralyzed by my grief. That is what it was. I was grief-stricken. The events of the past several days had drained everyone.I continued hearing the beautiful words. I had so much to say. So much I wanted to tell the kids, the grandchildren, the husband; all so saddened, with blurry tear-filled eyes, and teardrop stained faces. So many kind people had come on this cold, windy day. I was grateful they were there. If I had a moment to compose myself, I too, would have lovely words. I felt my prose welling up in my throat. I chocked back tears, knowing it would all be over soon. I would have my time to let my teardrops fall one by one, streaming down my face. I would not have to be so strong, so frigid, so emotionless for long. I was frightened. It was ghastly. It was not supposed to end like this. I guess I had pushed the thoughts away before, refusing to focus on how it would be, how it would feel, although I knew some day we would have to say goodbye.The ceremony continued and the preacher stood to speak. Be not afraid, he said. This is God’s plan. Easy for him to say. My heart filled with sadness and pain as I had never known. Then, the self-condemnation washed over me. How could I think of myself at this hour? I questioned my motives.
I felt guilt for the things I never said, the things I never did, the work left unfinished, and the lives that changed in the fluttery batting of an eye. Would things get better? How would things turn out? Is there a force more powerful than regret?
I searched my soul for the righteous thoughts, the proper feelings, and how could I summon the volition to accept that this was how it was supposed to be? How could I not be angry? How could I forgive myself for the thoughts and feelings I was having? I could not command my thoughts to let go of the rage. It was not supposed to end like this. It is not the natural way and I would have it no other way.
The darkness licked my face, as the casket closed, and Amazing Grace began to play. I felt several jolts and knew it was high time I said goodbye. Goodbye to a life fully realized. Goodbye to happiness. Goodbye to my companion. We had a great journey together. My fate was sealed. Lower and lower I sank. The dirt began to fall on the casket. I had made the right choice. I heard the sniffles, the tears, and the sadness. It broke my heart.
My thoughts drifted to my son and his family: My grandchildren, nearly grown themselves. His beautiful wife and the beautiful life they created together. I thought back to the instant at the hospital when I had made the choice to give my life for him. They were happy and a son should outlive his parents. That turning point in time ended his suffering at the precise moment mine began. Thankfully, that agony was fleeting, and I would do it again. My wish was granted and I had to have thanksgiving for that.
My heart filled with love, joy, and relief, as I thought of the selfless act I had bid unto myself. The thought of my grandchildren growing up with their father was enough for me to let go of my own anguish. My love had saved him. I never knew there was so much power in a mother’s love. The lowered, black veil draped my grey visage and I mourned the moments I would not be around: the important key milestones and celebrations.
I smiled to myself when my thoughts drifted and I imagined my son walking my granddaughter down the aisle. My sacrifice had preserved that precious, bittersweet day in time. I smiled to myself. Is there any mother that would not give her own life for her child?