Grave whispers

Why?

It's all she wants to know.

Why? They whisper it as they kneel before her. Why? She wants to reach out to the woman (Her mother, she knows, though how, she couldn't say) sobbing against an older man's shoulder, whispering the word again and again. Why? Why? She wants to touch her, but she can't, so all she can do is chant with her. Why?

When they're gone, she repeats the word to herself, the soft plea pale and desperate. She turns to the side, watching the people walk down the street. Her eye is drawn to a baby carried by his proud mother.

She wants her chance to live. Why?

Time passes. Other people come and go. Her mother doesn't visit. The man does, once. He says nothing, simply sits and stares at her gravestone before leaving.

A young boy comes to visit her one day. He sits down, staring at her gravestone, as if trying to figure something out. After a few minutes, he stands up. "Mummy, why does this person only have one year on her gravestone?" His mother glances over.

"Stillbirth." She doesn't understand the word, but she knows what the woman means. She can see the boy does as well.

The boy glances back down, and she thinks she can see pity in his eyes, and a question. Why?

One day she sees her mother again, alone this time. She looks older, tired, her eyes red from sleepless nights. They both watch the black box as it's lowered into the ground beside her. She notices for the first time that her name only takes up a third of the stone.

The man appears for a few minutes, watching his own funeral. He looks younger and healthier than he ever did in life, and he smiles sadly, first at the mourning woman, then at her. For an instant, they know each other, understand each other, love each other. Then he is gone, leaving her with her mother, alone in the crowd of faceless people.

"It was his time." Her mother says as someone puts a hand on her shoulder. "It was. We had our time together." She almost sounds like she believes it.

A few days later, a man comes. He kneels by the gravestone with a hammer and chisel. She watches, fascinated, as words are carved out of the hard marble. When he leaves, she can see an empty space in the middle of the stone, separating them.

Her mother visits regularly now. It's the same routine every time. She comes over to their graves. She kneels between them. She talks about many things, events that are happening in the neighborhood, news of their friends and family, things she hear on the news. She sits for a few moments, quiet, then presses her hands to their headstones, and says goodbye, addressing them by name each time. She stands, and turns, leaving her daughter alone.

She learned from her mother that her name was Lydia. At least, that was what her name would have been, had she been born. But she hadn't been born, had she? She is beginning to understand.

Her mother never stops visiting, but she does come less frequently now. She speaks less, preferring to spend time just sitting with them.

It's a bright and sunny day when her mother joins them. She watches the procession for a few minutes, then turns to find the man there, standing beside her. He looks the same as he did when she saw him at his funeral, tall and proud. Neither of them say anything as they watch, and wait.

Her mother is sitting off to the side, watching the funeral, seeming rather relaxed. The man tugs Lydia up, and they go to her mother together. She smiles up at them as they both reach out for her. She takes their hands, and they move on together, past her death, his death, everything.

Why? Why did she have to die before she could live?

Does it matter anymore?





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