He applied pressure to the brake, turned the wheel to the left, and eased the car through the fourth gate.
The manoeuvre, entrenched in his psyche, required no thought. It was an automatic response on this stretch of highway. How many times had he made this turn? How many more times until his day would come?
Daylight had given way to dusk. Soon the remaining light would fade into oblivion, engulfed by the cold, dark night—not unlike the experience of his soul in recent months.
Once, the future had sparkled with opportunity. The world had seemed a place of promise, a place to dream. That was before. Everything was different now.
Coming out of the turn, he pressed the accelerator and inched along the drive.
The brilliantly coloured leaves that adorned the trees just a few weeks ago now lay scattered across the landscape. The trees lifted their naked branches in stoic resolve. For a moment, he considered the apparent resoluteness of the trees, standing tall against the elements despite being stripped of their glory. They provided a stark contrast to his feeble resolve.
He stopped the car and opened the door. The cool November air filled his lungs as he stepped out and walked toward the grave. He was careful not to step on the newly seeded grass covering the plot.
A decorative memorial saddle adorned the top of the stone. Neatly placed in the centre of the decoration was a picture of his son. He sat on the edge of his hospital bed wearing a Santa suit.
A tear traced its way down across the man’s cheek. He wiped it away and knelt in front of the gravestone, gripping it on either side with both hands. His gaze rested intently on the picture of his son.
Oh! How he had learned to love his son in those final months! That priceless love had been forged between father and son in the furnace of suffering. It could not adequately be expressed in either word or thought.
That same love now wracked the father’s frame as it coursed through him. As the sense of great loss washed over him, his knuckles turned white from the force of his grip on the stone. The tears flowed freely down his face, now. He made no effort to wipe them away. He endured the agony until it relented. It was better to remember and feel the pain than to forget. He could never forget.
He whispered, “I love you, my son. Oh! How I miss you. I love you so very much.” His shoulders sagged under the weight of the burden even as his words disintegrated into unintelligible groans swept away on the November wind.
With tears streaming down his face, he straightened and walked back to the car, careful not to step on the newly seeded grass.
As he pulled away, he said, “I’ll see you at the 9th gate, my son.”
One more time, he eased the car out of the cemetery gate and re-entered the world of the living. How many more times, he wondered. How many more times until his day would come?