Here I am again. Trapped in this nightmare of never-ending grief. No matter how many times this happens, I never know how I come to stand here in the cold emptiness. Despite the raging storm within, the park stands quiet and calm. Regardless, my rent soul fails to capture the peace offered. Though my heart beats, and my lungs fill and empty and fill, life trickles through my numb fingers like grains of sand. The snow shines pristine, virgin. The heavy silence holds. The entire world lies wrapped in a blanket of cold and desolation. Or is that just my hurting heart?
The twin swings hang limp and lonely.
Mocking my empty arms.
An echo of kinder times.
Then … a creak. Soft and barely there. My eyes shoot to the play area. But nothing has changed. The spark of hope flickers and dies.
Now comes the gleeful cry of a child flying high, higher than she’s ever swung before. Am I hearing things? Have I, at last, lost my feeble mind? I blink back the tears and fold my arms to ward off the cold … the horror.
I shouldn’t have come back here.
It’s a mistake.
Gently, the empty swings rock and creak in a breeze … that isn’t there.
Footprints dimple the snow.
Anguished memories grip me by the throat and squeeze. A sob bursts free.
Leather shows through a circular thaw—the perfect size for a young girl’s bottom. And the second seat copies its twin. As in life, so in death. Tears stream and sting down my icy skin. Even in my disbelief, my heart warms. Thaws.
Can it be?
Have my dear departed come back to me?
At some point, I find myself on my knees, half-sunk into the cold, soft snow. My bones ache in tandem with the throb of my hurt heart. My thin nightdress clings to my chill-damp flesh, and goose bumps prickle my skin. The daylight fades to grey, and a harsh downdraft promises another blizzard. The dead place inside my ribcage calls for the whiteout that the storm will bring. A clean slate … if only I could forget. But, no, how could I ever wish for my memories of you to fade? Oh, such sweet anguish to have known you—loved you—for four glorious years.
An icy gust rocks me in my precarious balance and threatens to blow my fragile self apart. Barely noticed, the hours pass. Full dark descends, and the snow glistens and glisters in the glow of the pregnant moon. A small hand slips into my left palm, and another on the right. I tighten my grip and hold those tiny fingers. Somewhere in the trees an owl hoots. Effortless now, I rise to my feet and wade through the deep snow, headed toward the woods.
Had I cared to look, I would have seen one set of footprints, not three.
A fresh blizzard buffets and blows. And then …
Behind, the snow lays pristine once more. The heavy silence holds, cocooned in the eye of the storm. The swings stand still, weighted with weather and sorrow.
At the tree line, a hand settles onto my shoulder. Heavy. Warm. The pressure halts my progress. A second hand joins the first, and together, they turn me to face my husband. Jack looks stricken—panicked. Then his gorgeous smile crinkles his mouth and eyes and he pulls me into his arms. Lips buried in my hair, he murmurs, ‘Come home. It will all feel better tomorrow.’
Lost in the wilderness of grief, I cling to my beacon in the dark and let him lead me home.