The Name on the Tombstone

March 22, 2009
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An icy wind blew down from the north that dull gray morning. It scraped against my chapped lips and increased the burn left from the skin slowly peeling away. The old baggy jeans that loosely covered my legs were swirled around by the wind. Strangely, I felt like I should be wearing a jacket. But that didn’t make sense: I knew I couldn’t feel the wind, I wouldn’t feel the cold. Yet it still felt strange, being out in the wind without a jacket. I stared down at a stone tombstone, new relative to the ones surrounding it. I didn’t look at the name scrawled across the top.

Suddenly, I found myself screaming, “Why did you do it? Why the hell did you do it? What was wrong with you? Damn it! Damn you! Damn them! Damn – damn everything! Why couldn’t you, why couldn’t you see…?” Slowly I slumped down onto knees and bowed my head. “They loved you,” I whispered. “They all cared about you – couldn’t you see that?”

I rose up to my feet, and, keeping my head bowed, walked to the tombstone in front of me. Careful to not see the name engraved in the cold stone, I brushed the remains of some old dead flowers off into the dirt, and I sat there.

She had been quite a good friend of mine some time ago. Today was her birthday, and also the anniversary of her passing. In the months before her death, she had grown more and more distant, before finally taking her own life with a deep slash across her wrist. I sure did miss her, I thought as a tear slid down my cheek before falling to the cold dirt.

Absentmindedly, I traced the hard ridges on my own wrist. Suddenly, I heard the dull purr of a sports car driving up the dirt lane behind me. The black paint shined, even in the twilight of that dark day. Three people, all dressed in their black Sunday best, stepped out of the car and solemnly made their way to where I was. There was and older looking man, with his arm comfortingly around a woman who looked as if she had recently finished crying. Walking a few paces behind them was a boy. He looked a lot older then when I had last seen him; he was starting to lose the pudginess of youth. Come to think of it, they all were looking older; the man’s hair was flecked with gray, and there were many new lines creasing the woman’s face. They all looked as if they had survived some great tragedy.

As they got closer, I took a few steps backward out of respect; this was there time. “Oh look!” The woman exclaimed, blatantly trying hard to be cheery. “Someone has cleared off the old flowers - how kind.” The less talkative males nodded their agreement.

Silently I stood there, observing their moments of mourning. I felt like I shouldn’t have been standing there with them, like I was intruding during such an emotional time. The man rubbed an arm across the woman’s back and mumbled about starting the car. The mother and her son both placed flowers under the stone before standing there for a moment longer. Silently, they called out their last goodbyes and I took a step forward as they turned to go. My fingertips grazed the woman’s shoulder as she walked past, “Mom!” I called out. She didn’t deserve to suffer like this! Suddenly she stopped and whirled around while calling my name out, “Is that you? Dear?” I wanted to run forward into her arms, but I knew I would pass right threw her. My call had fallen on deaf ears, hadn’t it? The boy walked up behind his mother and put his arm around her, leading her back towards the car and mumbling conciliatory nothings to her softly. I stretched my arm out towards her, fingers spread to grab something they could never reach. “Goodbye Mom,” I whispered. “I will always love you, and miss you.”

The family got into the car, and I almost felt like I should follow suit, but I knew there was something else more important for me to do, something that had to be done. I turned back towards the tombstone, and I bowed my head. I had never really been one for prayer, but I supposed that then was as good a time as any to start. Time slipped past - it might have been hours, or it might have been years. Suddenly the sun slipped below the cloud line, and a loose ray shined directly in my face. The wind seemed less harsh then, and that’s when I knew – I realized it was time to move in. I smiled and lifted my face to the sun, eyes closed. Then, smiling still, I stared directly at the name on the tombstone.

I looked at the name on the tombstone, and saw that it was my own.

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