The withered petals flutter gently to the ground, leaving little white stains on the neatly clipped lawn. I place the stems behind the headstone, adding to the small but growing pile. I sigh. I could count them…one bunch of stems for each week since you were taken from me. But that would be a useless task, since the weeks, the days, the minutes, the seconds are etched into my very soul.
‘The flowers haven’t weathered so well this week, my dear.’
I watch the stately gum trees swaying in the breeze and then raise my face to the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun caress my cold skin. Closing my eyes I allow the tightly barred door of my memories to open slightly. For a fleeting moment I once again see your face, hear your laugh, and feel your arms around me. With a groan I pull back, pushing the door shut again. Too soon. I open my eyes. Too painful. Instead I focus my attention on the fresh flowers, rearranging them this way then that. Finally I stop.
‘You never even liked flowers. I could never understand that…’
I stare at the simple white flowers, wondering why I continue to bring them week after week. Why do I bring them? I sigh again.
‘The tomatoes you planted are ripening. You would be proud of me. Against all odds I have managed to keep your garden alive…’
I place my hand on the cold marble of the headstone and frown. Alive. Why does that one word cut so deeply? Why do I find it so difficult to breathe when I hear that word?
‘Ahhh that’s right…because I couldn’t keep you alive.’
This time the door opens of its own accord and memories push through uninvited. I see you standing there shaking your head at me…as though disappointed. Like the time you went away and I forgot to water your garden.
‘But you managed to save the wilted little plants then. Why can’t you save me now? Wilted, dying me?’
I wrap my arms around my body and shiver, turning slightly away from your grave. But still the memories continue to enter through the door, unsolicited...yet strangely comforting. I see you, still shaking your head, with a small smile playing across your lips…as though exasperated. Like the time I weeded your garden, wanting to help you, and then discovered I had pulled out all the seedlings and left only the weeds. I shake my head, trying to dislodge the memories.
‘I know what you’re trying to do…and it won’t work. How can I possibly live again? How can I carry on with life when you lay here?’
I bite my lip. How to explain…that I feel guilty for each breath I take…knowing that you will never take another. That I feel guilty for each morsel of food that passes my lips…knowing that none will ever pass yours again. Knowing that with each breath and piece of food I consume I choose life…when you no longer have that choice.
‘We were going to grow old together…’
I slowly stand and dust the grass clippings from my skirt. A tear drops onto my hand, surprising me. When did I start crying? The next memory is courteous, knocking gently at the door of my mind. Resigned, I let it in. I see you now with a broad grin covering your face…your eyes full of fun and love. It reminds me of the time I finally managed to grow something in your garden. I was so proud…until you told me it would have to be pulled out; a daisy bush wasn’t a vegetable and therefore didn’t have the right to remain there. Aghast I stared at you…until you couldn’t help yourself and broke into a grin. The same grin I now see on your face. I stare at it…wondering…realising…aching.
‘I think I understand now. Flowers aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living; the breathing…the smelling…the breaking…like me.’
I reach down and gently pull the white petalled daisies out of the vase. I wrap my fingers around the stems and bury my face in them. Breathing deeply, I smell the sweet scent of…life. My life. Your life…living through me.
‘Thank you my darling…for this gift.’
Slowly I turn and begin the long walk home. Every so often I raise the bright sunny flowers to my face and breathe in their perfume. And very slowly…I smile.
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