By Karen Brode
I sit here waiting to go to your funeral. Gary’s handkerchief is wadded in my hand and time is passing slowly. In a way, time is passing quickly because each minute that ticks by takes me farther away from the time that you were part of my life.
We travel familiar roads and I think of all the times I have ridden back and forth to your house. The memories of a lifetime go through my mind as I make this, my most reluctant journey, to your house.
I think of all the childhood times I had with you, and the times you made my little world happier and brighter just by being in it.
I know instinctively that I will never have anyone in my life like you again. People will come and go in my life, but no one will ever love me and care about me in the say way you have.
I think of the last time I saw you, and I suddenly realize that it was no coincidence that I felt the overwhelming urge to visit you last Tuesday morning while Brandon was in preschool. I sat on the cedar chest by your bed. It was like any other visit, except it was the last time I ever saw you alive in this world. We talked about inconsequential things. We remembered times and discussed plans and there were comfortable silences with no need for words between us. I looked about the room at the pictures of your mother and daddy and your brothers. I knew those were the people you loved most and missed most. I knew you loved me dearly, but I also knew I could never replace those people who were your world long before I was.
When I rose to leave that day, you took my hand and there was a desperation in the way you clung. I think I must’ve known you were dying even though I wasn’t ready to consciously admit it. Your eyes spoke to me of things you didn’t have words to explain. I bent to kiss you and let you know of my love for you. Then, I let go of your hand and left.
It is clear to me now. You and I were saying goodbye that day. I just didn’t know it.
Your house was empty and silent without you. Your books and crochet were scattered just where you left them. I walked from room to room feeling old and tired. I realized I was looking for you. I went to sit on your porch in the twilight, but I couldn’t sit in the swing, so it creaked lonesomely in the soft breeze. Earth seemed a strange, alien place to be without you. We had many conversations on that porch amid the wisteria and honeysuckle. There were so many times and memories that had been ours. Now they would be only mine.
At the cemetery, I sat in the tent and listened to the prayer. I heard the lonely sound of the wind flapping the straps against the tent poles. I looked at the casket that contained your body. I gazed across the barren cemetery and thought of all the summers and winters I would spend on this earth without you.
I regret that so much of the time when our lives had overlapped had been when I was a child; too young to know the true value of you. I thought of how quickly time would spin me away from this day, and I knew in time, memories would be blurred. I very much want to tell you that none of the things you taught me were in vain. None of the time you spent with me was lost. Your influence, more than anything else, has shaped me into who I am and who I always will be.
I thought of how you sound when you answer your phone. I thought of the potato gravy that you made especially for Brandon and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to make it as well as you.
I thought of the nights when I was little and it would thunderstorm. I would tiptoe to your door, and ask you to come and sleep with me, and you would come and quiet my fears and get me back to sleep, and I never knew when you went back to your bed.
And now, you have slipped away for the rest of my life.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.