Until my time to go
Alone and in mourning, a gift is given and sorrow becomes joy.
While visiting my father’s grave just after dusk, I heard what sounded like a child laughing and playing somewhere behind me. I stood up to better place where the sound was coming from, I turned and looked across the way to the old section of the cemetery on the other side of the creek that ran through the graveyard, there I saw a small figure move quickly from view amongst the weathered headstones. The sound of laughter echoed off the stones then faded with the light of day as the darkness of night crept from the woods off in the distance. I was compelled to find the child and tell them to get home before it got much darker. I crossed the old iron bridge leading from the newer section of the graveyard into the older and less visited area. The monuments there were in various stages of decline, windswept and withering, the words chiseled upon the stone often worn down and undecipherable to most, save only for those willing to pause long enough to gleam their heartfelt remembrances inscribed upon them by those whom have long since joined them in the here after. I paused between two towering limestone obelisks to read one such inscription when I heard a diminutive voice speak to me from behind one of the pillars. “ Will you read to me?” it said with a childish giggle that faded off with an echo. I nearly fell over as I lost my balance when I spun about searching to find the source of the voice. A cold wind suddenly whipped around the corner of the obelisk nearest to me. I took a step forward, rounded the square base and momentarily stared downward, carefully trying not to trip in the failing light. As my line of sight lifted, I suddenly froze in fear as my eyes locked on a form before me! I gazed into eyes that gazed unflinchingly back into mine, I nearly spoke out to nervously greet them, but quickly realized I was alone. I stood at the gravestone of a small boy whom sat upon a chiseled marble stairstep of books. He looked inquisitively at me as he pointed at the page of an open marble book sitting in his lap, in his other hand he held a small sprig of flower. I moved to the boy’s side and looked down at what he was pointing at on the page. “Oh child, the words have gone…” I said as I tried to read the worn away letters. I laid my hand upon his cold stone shoulder, then somberly pulled away. I turned and walked toward the bridge, stopping I peered back at the lonely stone, the boy looked to me with his unceasing gaze, reluctantly I crossed the bridge and heard no more laughter. I walked swiftly to my car as near darkness now settled in. Fumbling with my keys, I clumsily dropped them by the door, as I bent to retrieve them, I saw laying on the ground a colorful vibrant blooming sprig of flowers. Gently, I picked them up and breathed them in, a flood of sweet childhood memories suddenly washed over me. I saw a flurry of brief flashes of my father and me through the years, all the wonderful moments that we shared seemed to condense and play themselves out beneath my closed eyes in a quick succession of thoughts. I opened my eyes as I opened the car door. I staggered forward and slumped into the seat behind the wheel as the tears of both sorrow and joy began to stream down my face. I started the car, turned the wheel and pulled away, as my headlights cut through the darkness, I tried to catch one last glimpse of the boy, but was unable to spot him in the sea of headstones. I drove out the gate and down the road beneath the star filling night sky… The next day I returned with books in hand and made my way to the boy. I sat at his side and read aloud surrounded by the unending accompaniment o fcheerful birdsong. Many a warm sunny day has passed beneath the swaying shady branches of an aging elm tree. The hours slowly pass by as I turn the pages of the timeless masters. I’ve told so many a tale to the boy with the book, the adventures of Tom, Finn and Jim and the rickety raft. The great poems of Miss Dickinson and Mr. Frost, and the long journey of Dorothy and Toto. Book after book, story after story, tale after tale, on and on until I grow tired from exertion. Often the day gets away from us and I’m forced to leave in the falling light. I weave amongst the stones and the stretching shadows, hesitantly making my way back to my car, but I always return and every time I bring something new for us to explore. Now, when I arrive, I seek my father but always find the boy.
“Like the flower in your hand your precious life only just began to unfold
And the sadness I feel in my heart is for your story that I do not know.
A boy and a book with date and name inconspicuously inscribed below,
Your untimely loss filled the ones you love with an unbearable sorrow
The pages of life have turned as the rivers of time unceasingly flow,
I sincerely promise you this, I will read to you until mytime to go.”