Slipperless #5

By: Sloan Storm

And so, a couple of weeks after things changed between Gabe and me, I felt strong enough to return to the cemetery and visit her grave.

After parking my car, I made my way across the grounds towards her plot. As I did, memories of that terrible day flashed back into my consciousness. The thing I remembered most was the pain. It was so deep and so profound I had no idea if it wouldn’t destroy me. At some point it had gotten so bad, making it to the next day was the furthest thing from my mind… I just hoped to make it to the next minute. Yet, as I meandered among the tombs, the suffering I’d felt seemed distant somehow.

I wasn’t sure why, but I was grateful for it.

At last I came upon her gravesite. Sitting down in the cool, lush grass, I drew my knees towards my chest, hugging them close as I looked down at her stone. Beside her was the burial site of my grandfather.

I sat there for several minutes in reverential silence, allowing the occasional warm breeze to blow through my hair and the heat of the afternoon sun to caress my skin. I realized what a gift it was, not only to be alive, but to have known someone so wonderful as my grandmother.

Soon, I began to speak out loud as if she were there, listening to me.

I told her everything that had happened between Gabe and me, leaving out no details. I would never have been so honest with her when she was still alive. It wasn’t that I was trying to hide anything from her. It was more that I didn’t want her to worry about me. But now, there was no longer a place for worry in our relationship, only truth.

Beyond the details of my personal relationship with Gabe, I told her about all of the good things happening in my life for a change. She’d always told me someday I would fulfill my dreams and wishes. The only wish I had that wouldn’t come true, of course, was she would be here to see the rest of them fulfilled.

As I talked away, somehow I’d lost track of time, and before I realized it, hours had gone by. For the first time in… months… I felt a sense of peace and calm in of all places, a cemetery.

Reaching down, I dragged the tips of my fingers along the indentations of the stone, tracing her name and birthdate as I went. At some point, I glanced over to my grandfather’s stone. He’d been gone for many years now, and the worn lettering on his tombstone reflected the time gone by.

As I looked down at the graves, I recalled how my grandmother used to speak about the day when she would pass away.

During all of that time, I never understood why she seemed not only at peace with the idea, but almost looking forward to it. My emotion surrounding it had nothing to do with my grandfather, but savoring the notion of death didn’t appeal to me. For years I convinced myself I felt that way because of my rational nature.

In contrast, she spoke of the time fondly, almost as if she couldn’t wait for it to occur.

Yet, as I’d grown closer to Gabe, there was a small part of me that began to understand what she meant. I’m not suggesting what was happening between Gabe and me was in any way similar to the type of love shared by my grandparents.

Their relationship was the rarest of all… they were true soulmates.

Yet, even so, the idea of not being able to see him, hold him, touch him or even smell him began to occupy my thoughts on an almost daily basis.

And so as I sat there, next to the gravesite of the most important person in my life, I felt as if I could at last understand what she meant. There was something beautiful about being so committed to one person. I wondered, in her last moments when she faced death head on, if the reassurance she had that she’d see my grandfather again didn’t give her the strength she needed to move on to the next life.

My grandmother wasn’t a foolish person, nor was she ignorant. She was a warm, intelligent and caring human being. Thinking back, I wished that instead of assigning some strange meaning to her longing to be with him again, I would’ve just asked her about it. Perhaps if I’d heard the words from her lips, they would have given me the strength I needed now.

I raised my hand to my mouth and kissed my fingertips.

Reaching down, I placed them on top of my grandfather’s tombstone first and next, my grandmother’s.

Focusing my attention on hers, I began to speak, “Grandmother, I’ll never be able to fully express my gratitude toward you. Without your kindness and guidance, I wouldn’t have survived. I only hope someday I can make you proud, and if I’m very lucky, I’ll find a man who brings the same meaning to my life as Grandfather did to yours.”

With that, I placed my palms flat against the thick tufts of grass surrounding the burial plot and stood once more. Before I turned to walk away, I took one last look down at their stones.

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