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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)

TITLE: Ashes
By Brad Paulson
12/12/06


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The snow is melting rapidly. Tiny fingers of water, branching off in every direction fighting their way to the riverís edge. Sunlight filters through the trees, reflections from the patches of snow form starlike illusions through my tears. Upstream I reach a clearing adorned with a large granite monolith, fractured through the center, a fitting headstone for my fatherís final resting place. The constant rumble of the turbulent river harmonizes with the turbulence of my soul. I sit for a moment.

Memories appear and disappear like the glimmers of sunlight on the snow. Iím racing to the hospital hoping and praying with every ounce of energy that God will save my father. Walking into the hospital room, the tears on my sisterís face tell the story. My father, unconscious and unresponsive, laboring for each breath, unaware of our presence. Inside I am screaming, ďLord, give me five minutes. Wake him for just a moment so I can talk to him.Ē The sound of his labored breathing disorients me, my sisterís tears continue to flow, I break down.

A breeze rustles the pine needles in the trees, one of my fatherís favorite sounds. The air is cold but the warmth of the sun unlocks the sweet smells of the forest. I stare at the plastic bag that contains my fatherís ashes. My greatest hero, the greatest man Iíve ever known, reduced to a bag of gray powder.

ďYou have to make a decision soon. Do you have power of attorney for health care?Ē My mind is spinning. I canít concentrate.

ďYes we do,Ē my sister tells the doctor. She is stronger than I am. I canít make her do this on her own.

ďWe can do surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain, but the damage is so extensive that it is unlikely he will regain consciousness. The procedure may prolong his life, but is unlikely to improve the quality of his life. You need to decide now if you want the surgery, his condition is deteriorating every minute.Ē My sister is unable to speak. Itís my turn to be strong.

I cut off the top of the bag containing my fatherís ashes and some gray powder spills onto my hand. Iím horrified and comforted at the same time. So much emotion wells up in me, I scream. The mountains echo back my cries, a symphony of grief. Who will be there for me now? Whenever I needed him, he was there, regardless of the circumstances. No problem was too big for him. I had complete confidence with him in my corner. Nothing was required from me in return for his help, not even appreciation. He was just there.

Fumbling through the documents, his wishes are clear. ďWe have to let him die.Ē My voice trembles with the finality of the decision. Any hope of another conversation or any kind of interaction is gone. I feel sick to my stomach. Nurses and doctors scurry around, business as usual. Donít they know what is happening here? The most important person in the world to me is slipping away. They have no idea who he is, how important he is, how loved he is. Their concern seems to be focused on how soon the bed will be available.

The gray powder begins mixing with the trickling waters of the melting snow as I sprinkle it on the ground. The colored water frantically zigzags over and around obstacles until it finds its way to the river bank. As the colored water pours into the river, it forms an underwater cloud. I think of heaven. The cloud is caught up in the current and flows downstream, dissipating as it goes, and then heís gone. I sit on a rock and cry for a while, nothing is left of my hero except memories and a few trinkets. Preparing to leave I try to make a mental note of the landmarks that surround me. I may never be able to find this exact location again so I carve my fathers initials in a tree near the riverís edge. The birds continue to sing, the sun continues to shine and the river continues to flow, as if nothing ever happened.


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This article has been read 893 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/14/06
This one made me cry ó hit very close to home. Beautifully done.
william price12/14/06
Very emotional. Its like I can't get passed the story to tell you how well you did. That's my compliment. God bless.
Jacqueline Zerres12/14/06
Very emotional. Wonderful closing. It tugged at my heartstrings.
Jen Davis12/15/06
A beautiful and loving tribute. Wonderfully done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/15/06
The description in this piece is excellent, adding to the authentic emotion which places the reader right beside the one who grieves.
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/16/06
What a sad and beautiful tribute. There were quite a few grammatical errors in this peice, and I think the flashbacks my have been more clear if they were in italics, but the word and emotional pictures you created were touching.
Beth Muehlhausen12/17/06
Great images, emotion, story-telling. Well-framed in a frozen few moments of time when the water becomes almost a living reality to receive, bury, carry, and return dust to dust - powerful stuff.

Dennis Fletcher12/18/06
Great story, you brought back memories for me through your own. Well done.
Dianne Janak08/08/07
What a beautiful tribute. Loved the imagery, the voice, and the content. I am still in awe of the love that came through this one. So much of the human condition is found in grief. Thanks for this piece.