Lost in Your Absence

May 13, 2009
By Catherine O&#39Halloran SILVER, Woburn, Massachusetts
Catherine O&#39Halloran SILVER, Woburn, Massachusetts
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The light turns green, as I sit and stare into the cotton clouds above. The impatient office man behind me beeps. I hit the gas breaking my trance and I realize; I’m really doing this. I’m finally on my way to see you, and I wonder if I really remember where your grave is or if the image etched into my memory is just a dream.

I remember going to see you, one August on your birthday. I was barely seven, and you were thirteen. I have this presence, this feeling in my mind of being in the back left corner of the cemetery. Tommy, Mason, and I followed mom up the big hill to where the grass plateaus, and she pointed out how all the baby graves are in the back. We walked over to the bottom of a giant tree, towering over us, to see your small flat stone in the ground. Mom cleared away the leaves and I read your name in stone, Sean Patrick O’Halloran. Your name, and presence now concrete and real in my mind.

As I turn into the cemetery nothing looks familiar, but it feels welcoming. There is no eerie sense of the dead, or ghosts, just the sun beaming down over the waves of green grass, with each tombstone like a boat lost at sea. I think of the millions of lives passed through, people laid to rest here and you amongst the million, waiting for me to find you.

I get to the back left corner, near the chain link fence, but I don’t feel you and nothing seems to look right. I get out at one point, looking around to see only brown grass, dead leaves, and shade from a gloomy old willow tree. I go back to the car and pull away slowly, looking around frantically for anything familiar. I follow the road along the back of the cemetery and I find myself at a loop, one circle, the highest point of the cemetery. I feel a sudden rush through my body, I get hot and I want to stop, but a woman is jogging right by my car. I drive past and the rush dissipates through my veins. I’ve found it.

I get back to the loop and get out, the sun beams down, through the yellow and orange leaves lighting the whole hill so perfect and serene. The warmth over takes my body again. I walk up an incline, not so much the hill it seemed before, to where the ground seems to even out. A few feet from the bottom of a giant oak tree, I bend down and there you are. I step back and put my hands on my knees, as I read your name once more, I am stunned. I ask the air aloud, “How did I just find this?” I clear away the leaves and dirt from the stone like Mom did that day, to read once more, “Sean Patrick O’Halloran August 13th, 1984 From Heaven He Came and There He Went”. Kneeling in the grass I turn to look behind me and I notice that I am so high up I can see for a good mile or so. The sun so bright I have to squint and the autumn colors brightening the whole area, for a moment I’m with you in heaven.

I then start to imagine today, again, as I always do, with you on earth, perfecting my life. I see you now, twenty-two, dark hair and intense hazel eyes to match mine. You live in an apartment just outside of Boston, you are in college to become something life changing, like a doctor. I see mom and dad being happy and all six of us having family time together, maybe playing Monopoly at the kitchen table. I would come to your apartment on weekends and we would have movie night. You’d ask me to tell you about my week and I’d actually tell you the truth. Then you would do the same. You would come to all my dance recitals and drive me to workshops hours away. I would go to your football games and watch you work on your car.

But you, you’re in the ground, with a lost chance at living out your days. You were cut off, intercepted; God wasn’t ready to let you go. And I, I’m in the world of what if and how come, with the lost chance to ever accept life as it is. God isn’t ready to let me let you go either.

I lean forward still kneeling in the soft green grass; I put my left hand on my knee and place my right hand on your stone, right over your name. I begin to trace the deeply carved letters with my fingers, the smooth warm stone brushing back against my skin. I kiss the tip of my index and middle fingers and touch them once more to your name. My throat gets tight, my chest gets heavy, and my limbs start to tingle, but I try not to cry. I sit back on my heels and pull the cuffs of my black hoodie over my hands. A gentle breeze caresses the back of my neck as the leaves on the trees rustle back and forth. You’re talking to me, calming my emotions. I relax my shoulders and realize I’m holding my breath. I feel my lungs shake as I exhale slowly and get up. I turn to see the view one more time before returning to my car. I see the sun beginning to set behind the hills of treetops, swirling blue, pink, yellow, and white light across the sky. I whisper, “If God gave you this view from earth, I can only imagine where he keeps you in heaven.”

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