Bare trees greet me as I arrive through the elegantly adorned gates of Walnut Gardens. I lock my car as I turn and begin walking through the mostly vacant car park. I fasten my jacket and begin the long walk towards my destination.
Navigating through the maze-like path, I recall the last time that I heard her voice. I remember my reluctance to make that phone call. I had managed to ignore her and put it off so many times before. I stood there slowly dialling her number and waiting anxiously for her to answer. Perhaps it would be busy.
I responded and said, “Hello. How are you?”
“I’m okay thanks, how have you been?”
“Okay I guess. I have been doing a lot of thinking.”
“And how’s that been going for you?”
“Under the circumstances, not as well as I would have hoped.”
“Do you think you are ready for us to talk?”
“Yes, I think that it’s time, even though I’m quite hesitant.”
“Is Benjamin okay?”
“Yes… well, he’s coping, I guess.”
“Can we do lunch tomorrow to talk about everything?”
“Sure, I’ll send you an email later.”
“Okay, chat later, then. Bye.”
I have at long last reached the lone and dusty site. The stones in the ground before me read ‘Jenna Harper’ and ‘Benjamin Harper’. As you may have guessed, the meeting that we were planning had failed to materialise.
The news of the accident came as a shock to me. It had looked as though we were in a good place. Time apart had been good for us and we finally had an opportunity to resolve things and gain some closure. But, that portentous phone call would be the last time I’d hear her voice. Arriving home later, I saw the following email on my computer:
Thanks for the call earlier. To be honest, I was quite relieved to see your name appear on my phone.
I know we are both at fault for not making contact a lot sooner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to call you. I’ve been avoiding reality, but I guess one can only hide in the shadows for so long.
Anyway, I thought we could meet at The Red Lantern. I have to drop Benji off at his friend after school, how’s 14h30?
See you then,
As I stand there looking at the bare headstones, I feel a strong vibration in the deep pocket of my thick, winter coat. I retrieve my phone from inside the many layers and place it to my ear.
“Hello darling… yes, I’m still here. I need to stay a little longer, and then I’ll be on my way home.”
As we say our farewells, my excitement grows as I vaguely hear in the background the wail of an infant that had become so recognizable.
After returning the phone to its pocket, I split the orange roses into two new bunches, carefully placing each one onto the pair of unassuming memorials before me.
I step back, feeling torn, wanting to stay longer, but conscious that I have a long journey ahead of me.
I place a hand on the stones in front of me, leave my dry fingers to linger for a moment and slowly pull myself away. As I begin walking along the snowed narrow path towards the car park, I look back and take one last glimpse at the solitary remnants of a life once past, reassuring myself that there can always be a second take.
Tell us: Have you experience a loss of a loved one? How did you deal with it?