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The breeze had long ago turned into a strong wind. The tops of the tall pine trees sway back and forth. It is a surprise that the long trunks still stand firmly in the ground. Even the smoke that is coming from the small cabin chimney does not make it higher than a few centimeters before it evaporates and disappears with the air.
It seems so long ago since I have left the cabin. I’m sitting on a rock now, my eyebrows tying knots above my watery eyes. The long winter had kept my nose from smelling the fresh mountain air, and it had been weeks since I have simply seen the sun. It is good to see the bright yellow ball again, although the wind makes it hard to look up. I forgot my sun glasses; it hadn’t crossed my mind when I left the little cabin earlier. I figured it was still early spring, and it was still cold. Who needs sunglasses? I wish I had taken them along.
I have been feeling so useless since the death of Taylor. I haven’t done a single thing in months besides feeding myself and making sure the coals in the fire pit stay red. After he died I was lonely, and the winter didn’t help at all. I have seen no reason to open that dark wooden door and go out to see the world.
We used to go snow-shoeing together, forming steam puffs with our warm breath in the cold air. We used to go hunting for snow birds. I’d be bursting with pride when I’d shoot the little feathered animals before Taylor could. He told me he didn’t want to get into trouble with a woman as stubborn as me so he had always let me shoot them. I never believed him. I wish now that I hadn’t been so competitive. I’ll never know if he really was too slow, or if he simply let me shoot those birds.
I don’t know what got into me this morning. I got up and for the first time in months, I saw a robin. Pretty brown head with a bulging orange belly. A thought ran through my head as I watched it chirp away a happy tune. There was no other person within miles of my little cabin—this bird must be singing for me.
For the first time in months, I opened the fridge to make me some breakfast. The delivery man had come by every week or so dropping off the groceries and probably checking to see if I was still alive. I had had food all winter, but I never took the time to make anything special. I’d have a banana or one of those ready-made military meals.
This morning, however, I had opened the fridge, pulled an egg out of the carton and walked over to the cabinet containing the pans. Taylor had made me bacon and eggs every morning since we moved up to the mountain, and after breakfast we’d sit and listen to the radio for a while. I cracked the egg and watched as it crawled toward the edges of the pan.
As I ate I thought of all the things I had taken for granted. I had never thought that one day I’d be alone on this mountain, without so much as a will to live. I had always just pictured life with Taylor. A song came to my mind. It had been playing on the radio that afternoon Taylor came down from the stream and handed me the freshly caught trout. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wanna go now. You can’t escape dying, so why don’t we all just live a little?
It was true. As much as you wanted it, you couldn’t escape dying. My mother used to say if it was your time to go, nothing could stop it from happening. I guess it was Taylor’s time. Although he didn’t escape dying, he sure lived. And not just a little. Just thinking of him makes me smile but the smile is hidden under a thick blanket of painful hurt. Breathing is so burdensome and life (has just felt – change to “just feels”) so meaningless.
I’m sitting on the rock now, recalling all those little memories. They are all so real, so there—like they happened just yesterday. It has been almost sixteen weeks that I’ve been alone. People had come up the then grassy mountain and helped me do the last things I could do for Taylor. They brought some food, offered me places to stay so I wouldn’t have to stay in my cabin alone, but I refused.
People stopped showing up after two weeks. They probably figured I would never give in and never ask for help. I’ve been alone since, with the exception of the down-right, heart-felt delivery man and the chaplain had shown up a few times too. Apparently, he figures my soul is still worth fighting for. The old bearded man can’t seem to get it through his little round head that I’ve given up on all possibilities of there being a God.
I get up slowly, inhaling deeply. The cool, fresh air cuts my throat. It’s time, I think to myself. It is time for me to take the next step when it comes to grieving. I had definitely done very well in the other four steps. I know step five will be the hardest, but I’m growing stronger, and I keep picturing that robin singing, as if to say there is a way.
Step one had been the obvious. Denial and isolation. I refused to believe he was gone. I’d wake up, trying to get a whiff of bacon and eggs. It never came. I screamed at Taylor. I had seen his white ashen face, moments before so full of life, now dead. I had kicked, punched, cried and denied. And then, I let go. I locked myself from the world, and isolated myself.
Step two wasn’t much better. Anger. I had hated everything. I hated that Taylor had left me. I hated the way the house still smelled like Taylor. I hated the picture that hung above the mantle. I hated the way the snow fell on the ground with no cares and no shame. I hated the sound of the wind. I hated everything.
After I figured the anger wasn’t getting me anywhere, I began to bargain with God—step three. I told Him, if you give me back Taylor, I’ll breathe every breath for you. I tried to win Him by false praying, completely drowning in His book, but that didn’t last long either. I’d fall asleep trying to read, and I’d start thinking of other things in the middle one of my pharisaical prayers. I had given up on God and I knew false praying wasn’t going to give me what I wanted.
Having lost Taylor, given up on trying to persuade God and seeing no point to live, I hit step four. I got depressed. I moaned, I groaned. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I sat up late at night, staring into space, no expression on my face.
But this morning when I woke up, I knew something had changed. It was as if, for the first time in a long time, I had really awoken. I don’t know what it is, but something about today is different.
I begin walking back to the cabin and I notice the grass is changing color. Going from dead brown to a pleasant green. Give it a few weeks, I think to myself, and you’ll have to take the trimmers out. Taylor always trimmed the grass. I let the thought pass.
I climb up the wrap-around porch, and prance past the swing on which we had spent hours talking, sitting, and dreaming.
I walk through the wooden door, noting that the windows need a good scrub. Tomorrow. Today I need to do something more important. Tomorrow I will clean the kitchen, scrub the windows, and see to the piles of laundry that lie waiting on the floor. But today—today I need to help free myself.
Placing one foot in front of the other, I take a deep breath when I reach the stairs. I haven’t been upstairs since before the winter. Since Taylor died, I catch myself thinking. Brushing the thought away, I pound up the stairs, out of breath when I reach the top.
Walking down the hall, I’m scared to face what was in front of me. The door is closed. Typical. He never left doors open. Causes a draft we don’t need.
The door knob feels cold. It almost hurts, the way it burns my finger tips. I close my eyes for a moment, and I twist my wrist. The door opens. It squeaks. Grey light and dust blind me.
The first thing I see is the poster above Taylor’s bed. An eagle soaring above white tipped mountains. Underneath the powerful-looking claws, a simple statement: I will raise you up on eagle’s wings.
I picture Taylor flying up to heaven. He had always dreamt of flying. Feeling nothing but the wind and the freedom of gliding through the air.
I move over toward his bed. Bed sheets pulled tightly, not a wrinkle, his pillow bulging out. It reminds me of the robin I seen earlier. I sit down gracefully, as I reach over for his journal.
Running my hands over the smooth leather, I hold it to my heart. Taking a deep breath, and sitting up straight, I open it to the first page;
Dearest Taylor. Write down your thoughts. Fill the blank lines with the beautiful poetry you write. May God be with you, as you chase your wild dreams, and when you lose the way, look to him, and live. I am forever proud of you, son. Your mother.
A tear rolls down my cheek. I let it slide down onto my lip, and lick it away with my tongue. This is the first tear I’ve shed for Taylor. I think of how life had been for Taylor. Taylor had lived his dreams. Good Christian upbringing and at 16, he enlisted into the army. After he saw enough of the miseries of this world, he went back to school. He graduated with honors with degree in environmental sciences. A dream to pursue the world, he packed his bags and he traveled. We met in Greece.
I was sitting by the docks, drawing. A seagull was sitting on the stern of the Dream Prowler and I wanted to get it down in pencil. I had been so into my drawing, I didn’t notice a man watching me. I was adding the last lines on the breast of the white bird, and I looked up. The sun was bright, almost hurting my eyes. And then I saw him. Dark skinned, dark eyes, dark hair—beautiful smile.
“That’s real good, ya’know?” he said, when he walked over to my side. His teeth were straight and pure white. His forehead shone, drizzled with a sprinkle of sweat from the hot sun beating down.
From that moment on, we did everything together. We were the best of friends. We laughed, we talked, we sang, we dreamt.
After we traveled together for two years, we built this cabin. High in the mountains, between the green bushes, the flowing river and the forest creatures. Those had been the best days of my life.
I come back to the present. I notice the pages of the black book I am holding are wet. I’m crying. I wipe my eyes with the back of my smooth hand. Taking another deep breath, I open to the last page on which Taylor had written:
November 3, 1993
Every day is a gift.
The sun in the heavens,
Looks down on us and laughs.
We worry about the present,
We grow dreary about the past.
We forget about what we have today.
Every day is a gift.
The squirrels are busy,
Preparing for the winter.
As the birds sing
Their last summer tunes,
The flowers reach high,
Stealing the last rays of sunshine.
I too, hold my head high,
And realize that every day is a gift.
And I thank God,
For the gifts in my life.
Taylor F. Bryant
I look away from the journal. My vision is blurred. I know that there is one more thing that I can, and need to do for Taylor. My slender fingers, unfamiliar with the aspects of prayer, intertwine within each other. I thank God for today. I thank Him for the gifts in my life, and I thank Him for Taylor.
I slowly stand up and I place the worn journal on the nightstand. I run my fingers through my hair unaware that I’m trembling.
I reach the doorway, and I turn and look behind me. I picture Taylor’s handsome face. I lift my chin and I glance at the eagle, flying free. I smile, and I close the door. I have accepted.