The sky is dark, save for the white glare of the moon and its reflection off the virgin snow that blankets the ground. It is the dead of night, and there is no sound. A lone figure is walking slowly along the side of the road. Her steps are heavy, and she appears weary. In the moonlight she resembles a pale ghost, her white hair glowing eerily in the wind. Cars slow as they catch sight of her, an old woman who most definitely should be warm in her bed somewhere. They ask if sheÕs all right, offer her a lift home, and are surprised by her polite refusal. She barely hears a word they say, but she shakes her head and smiles. She is not tired, nor is she cold. SheÕs lost the ability to be. One glance at her clouded eyes will show that her mind is elsewhere, certainly not traveling the same road they are. The soul is a funny thing. It is alive probably before the body, the mind. With a newborn baby it finds its home, the place it will stay until the death of its withered elder. With happiness, the soul swells inside, and with sadness, it weakens. And on the rare occasion when the soul bears so much of this misery that it simply dies, it withers away to nothing, leaving its body cold, empty, and utterly lifeless. This womanÕs soul had perished over twenty years ago. Her eyes were now empty, and her mind no longer saw the same road as the one she was walking. In fact, she was walking quite a different street. Ahead of her lay a paradise, a Heaven of sorts. Underneath her feet was a cobblestone pathway, leading to a great golden archway, beyond which was all the extent of her imagination. Maybe there she would come across the family sheÕd lost, the family that she had been so cruelly robbed of. Maybe there she would see the husband she hadnÕt touched in so long, the best friend sheÕd had for over fifty years. And maybe, just maybe, her entire family would be all together again. She was reliving a scene from her childhood. Her appearance hadnÕt changed much in the many years that separated past and present, aside from the noticeable lack of wrinkles that would eventually be carved into her features with age. It was the holidays, and there was a huge Christmas tree extending to the ceiling. She was dancing around it along with four other girls, all of whom were laughing hysterically. They were singing and giggling like five young girls with no cares in the world should. She glanced to her mother, who smiled at her lovingly. This Christmas she had received the present sheÕd always wanted; a baby brother. ItÕs funny, the memories and moments that stick with us. They can be short, long, insignificant, life altering. One thing similar between them is that they all hold special importance for one unconscious reason or another. One who has lived through the death of her entire family remembers a time where they were all together, when her heart and soul were still whole. Late one evening, a kind doctor came across the stumbling woman. He smiled kindly and helped her inside his car, and then the following morning he checked her in as a patient to the mental hospital where he worked. The doctors were unsure of what to do. It was clear she was on her death bed, and equally clear she had left a crucial part of herself behind long ago, without which she couldnÕt quite function. Perhaps she was happier in the past. ItÕs one of lifeÕs many tragedies, isnÕt it?Ó the kind doctor commented one morning while watching her. She was singing to herself, quietly and softly. And yet, like everything else, it is also one of lifeÕs many beauties. When oneÕs sadness becomes too much of a burden to bear, the mind simply reinvents itself, either reliving old memories or inventing new ones altogether.Ó His companion glanced at her as well. He looked to the ground. What should we do, sir? The board is convinced we could bring her mind back to the present dayÉ perhaps prolong her life for a few years more.Ó The doctor smiled sadly. Yes, but to what purpose? So she can die quite alone, with no one at her bedside, and completely aware that her entire family has predeceased her?Ó He shook his head. No, we will leave her as is. SheÕs happy. And we may as well let her die where her heart did.Ó And with that, they both turned and walked away. Inside, the womanÕs eyes were closed. In her mind, she saw her children. She saw her husband, her sisters and brother, her parents. They were smiling at her lovingly. And so when her heart finally stopped beating later that afternoon, it was with a full smile and a full heart. She had created her own happy ending, exactly as it should be. And thatÕs all any of us can really hope for.
September 1, 2007