The ashen sky closed in. Crisp brown leaves swirled in the wind. Huge drops of rain began to descend. Large black umbrellas popped open as if synchronized.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust … ”
The words mocked her, prodded and poked her inside and out. The pain was like nothing she had ever imagined.
A silent observer stood behind a bare oak tree, taking in the painful sight. While watching the figures in black flitting to and fro he was reminded of a school of fish swimming in a pond that was too small for them. His focus was on the fish in the centre. She was panic stricken and breathing rapidly but she still attempted to swim upright. The other fish milled about her, clumsily attempting to support her jaded body.
The observer noticed the hearse, glistening and gleaming and could not help but compare it to the king of all fish. To him it looked like a sleek, shiny shark eager to consume its prey.
He longed to scoop up the wounded fish and place her grief torn body in a pool of healing water, a river or lake where she could swim again and find life.
After the shark and all the distressed fish had departed, he walked over to the grave and sat there for a very long time. The rain fell on his dark hair, forming rivers that flowed onto his tear stained face.
Back at the family home the pastor sat with Marcia. “Marcia, I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through. Stuart was a wonderful man and will be sadly missed by so many people. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or trite but don’t you think it’s just like him to enter into a life with God on the first day of a new year?”
Marcia nodded and smiled. “Yes, he did everything to the letter. He probably prayed and asked God to take him home on January 1st. If I look in his diary it’s probably right there in black and white; January 1st 2005 - meeting with Jesus. Don’t be late.
Stuart had certainly looked after her well and always made sure everything was taken care of. She did not know how she would manage without him.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. Several curious fish swam toward the unexpected noise.
Marcia motioned to them to continue socializing.
Standing at her front door was a tall, dark haired, good looking young man. She felt a wave of grief rush over her, combined with a surge of anger. How could her mind do this to her? She had heard grief could do strange things to one’s psyche but this man looked exactly like Stuart.
She froze, hardly daring to believe. “Michael?”
He nodded sheepishly.
She hugged him tightly, drawing strength from him.
“Michael, are you alright. It’s been ten years. I thought you were … ”
“No, I’m alive and well. Gave up the drugs and booze about a year ago but I was too embarrassed to get in touch with you because of all I’d put you and dad through. Then about two weeks ago I got this letter from dad asking me to visit him in hospital. He told me he would probably be dead by New Year’s Day.”
Michael smiled wryly and reached into his pant pocket. “He gave me this list mum. Actually it’s more like a novel than a list. He’s listed everything that needs to be done right down to the dates and times they need to be taken care of. I’d be more than happy to take care of them for you … and dad.”
Arm in arm they walked into the house. Marcia stood dumbstruck, unable to form the words to introduce her son.
“Hi, everybody, I’m Michael, also known as the prodigal son I guess.”
Michael put his arm around his mother’s shoulder and smiled down at her with Stuart’s smile. He noticed for the first time that day his mother was beginning to breathe normally. Maybe she would swim again after all.
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