This story begins where another ends.
We were standing outside. It was a partially cloudy day. Green grass hills all around. We all gathered together for this single purpose.
A man in all black with a white collar spoke.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul…”
We were all dressed in black, too.
My dad took it the worst. She was everything to him. His whole world. His heart, his soul, his inspiration, his reason for living.
And now she was gone.
My sister stood by my side. I tried to be strong and not cry. She didn’t have that luxury. She cried profusely. She held onto my dad’s hand. They cried together.
Ashes to ashes. Funny saying. We’re all but stardust. Ash, that took form as this body, only to one day return to the ground. Dust to dust. Life is so short.
The white-collared man continued. “We now commit her body to the ground, in sure and certain hope… of the coming Resurrection.”
I’ve never seen my dad cry like that before.
I so wanted to cry too. But someone had to be strong in this family.
I’m sorry. I wish I did.
I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you.
~ ~ ~
That was February. Just a few days after Valentine’s Day.
My dad fell into a deep depression after that.
My sister and I still lived at home, even though we were both 19 and 21 respectively. We were saving money staying at home, to make college more affordable. We both commuted to the local community college. I worked part-time too. But next semester, I’d be graduating, and it’d be time to move out and get a real job, or transfer out of state to a four-year university that offered the degree I wanted.
Seeing my dad in such a depression, I wasn’t sure moving away was such a good idea. And after a loss like this, we needed to stick together more than ever.
My dad and sister really bonded. I think she reminded him of Mom. She had her eyes, her smile, some of her mannerisms. My sister, Jessica, was as smart as she was beautiful. As sweet as she was kind. As generous as she was loving. She was a real angel. A real God-send. She kept us together. She had a strength and compassion like no one else. She had the courage to cry and mourn with us. And somehow at the same time, she connected with us, consoled us, and provided us a strength and hope like I’ve never known.
I couldn’t have gotten through this without her.
I know Dad couldn’t have either.
The house was never the same with Mom gone. But somehow Jessica helped pick up the slack. Maybe it was an unfair burden to ask her to take over so many household duties, but she seemed to do it cheerfully and readily. Maybe it was how she coped. I don’t know.
I think my Dad sensed it was soon time for me to move out on my own. I’d be 22 years old later this year. I always planned to finish college. I wanted to get a degree in Microbiology. My dad worked as a janitor at a new biotech firm nearby. They did some really cool cutting edge stuff. Before Mom died, Dad would often come home from work telling us all the cool things his work buddies were working on. They were making major breakthroughs in gene therapy – finding cures for various diseases, extending the human lifespan, even working on a possible cure for cancer. It was exciting stuff.
Don’t think my Dad was less of a man just because he was a janitor. He had worked at that company for years. It was good pay. And he had befriended half the people who worked there. Everyone loved him. They even threw him a surprise birthday party last year. Some of his co-worker buddies even joined us at the funeral. True, he didn’t get to work on any of the research directly himself, but that’s why I wanted to finish college so bad. So I could continue in my Dad’s footsteps, work at a company like that, and actually be a part of the team doing research and finding all those cures.
But… was now a good time to go?
Before Mom died, I was anxious to move out on my own. It just made financial sense to stay at home for the time being. But now, after this, seeing the despair and deep depression he was in, I think he needed me around.
Not that he ever showed it or said it. In fact, if anything, he and I felt more emotionally distant. I tried to be there for him. But you know how guys are. We have to be tough, strong, unemotional. But Jessica… there’s something special about a father-daughter bond. And she was always a very kind, loving soul. They connected. They grew closer, so much closer, through all this.
I was kind of a little jealous.
But I understood. She was younger, likely to stay living at home longer, and she reminded him so much of Mom. I know my Dad always loved me. But all my life, I noticed he had something special, something different with Jessica. I guess that’s normal. I was always a little closer to Mom, anyway.
But now that she’s gone… who do I have?
My Dad pulled farther away. Jessica still had school, and when she was home, spent most of her time with Dad. Getting over Mom wasn’t easy. Her death came suddenly. We caught the cancer too late. And my dad’s company hadn’t found the cure in time. God took Mom home.
At least she’s happy and at peace now.
As for me, feeling disconnected from my father and unavailable with my sister, I often retreated to my room and disappeared into the world of video games and movies. I must’ve watched my entire DVD library three times over. Played and beaten every game I owned. At least twice. We all cope in different ways. I guess this was mine. It was more of a distraction than anything else. But I guess that’s what I needed.
Eventually, after a couple months, my dad started to get better. I remember one morning actually seeing him smile when he said “good morning” to us. That’s when I knew things were going to be okay. We were going to get through this. Life would be normal again. Not the same. Never the same. But at least, in some sense, normal again.
That is, until after church on Easter Sunday.
Jessica was running late getting to church. Couldn’t find the right dress, she said. Told us to go on ahead without her. She met us there, looking as beautiful as ever. Church service was nice. But then on the way home… on the way home…
God took Jessica home too.
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