“Happy birthday, Carly! I hope you like it,” my husband’s hopeful voice penetrated through my self-exiled heart.
I willed myself into a sitting position in the bed, the rumpled sheets and mattress indelibly stamped with my familiar body print.
“Birthday? It’s September?” my trembling hands plucking at the quilt, reminiscent of a swan furling her feathers to dry in the sun.
The months had passed by like whispers in the wind, mirroring my intangible thoughts floating just out of reach. I wasn’t always like this. I used to have reasons to get out of bed each morning. I was known for my motivation and endless energy for life and all it had to offer, caring for Seth, our adolescent son and only child, volunteering my spare time and talents to Church activities.
“Open it, sweetheart! Carly, it’s really special. Humor me, okay?” he softly added, clumsily patting my drooped shoulder.
Realizing my invalidism had taken a heavy toll on our marriage, I unwrapped the gift, as if the effort could appease the yawning cavern of guilt oppressing my spirit. I had no interest whatsoever in the beribboned flat package, but I faked it, nonetheless.
Seth’s birthdays, cascading in still-lifes, clouded out the present with sweet memories. His wide toothless grin, the train-shaped cake with six candles dotting its frosting-waved surface, brightly wrapped packages surrounding him. Each picture the same, yet different as he aged, his hair darkening and his body developing.
Rustling paper interrupted the pleasant reverie, sounds from the present, as I removed the wrappings from Clay’s gift. A stack of paperwork stared back at me: passports, airline tickets, birth certificates and a foreign document at the bottom of the pile. I tried to focus, to clear my mist-shrouded brain.
“Baby, it’s a second honeymoon. Remember how you used to yearn to visit the birthplace of your family? This is your chance! I booked us for an indefinite stay.”
I gazed from his face down to the colorful brochures he had spread out on the bed. Scotland? I hesitantly pulled out a certificate peeking out from the blanket edge:
“You have dedicated a tree
in the Caledonian Forest of the Scottish Highlands
as a lasting memorial to your son,
Growing over the years,
his tree and its progeny will stand forever
as part of the restored Caledonian Forest.”
“We’re not going to Scotland,” I protested faintly, trying to grasp this new, unexpected idea.
“Why not?” I thought.”
I read the certificate again, a glimmer of light penetrating through my apathy.
“We can see the tree?”
“Yes, Darling, and much more. It’ll be a new beginning. We have few ties here, and we both need a change.”
It was then I noticed the deeply furrowed forehead above my husband’s eyebrows, the gray flecks liberally sprinkled through his formerly jet black hair.
We arrived in Scotland a month later, hope infusing and spurring me on that I could finally heal from our son’s sudden death. The stunningly beautiful scenery sloping from glens to forests to lochs was breathtaking, the tranquility of open spaces, a balm soothing old wounds.
We hired a guide to take us to visit the Caledonian Forest the following day. We touched 350-year-old trees that stretched tall and stalwart into the sky. We planted the tree dedicated to our son, our Seth Colin, ancestral native of the soil we stood on, a living memorial to the unique person he had been.
And then I could truly grieve, expecting our eventual reunion in heaven. My faith in God had been severely tested, but I discovered He had not deserted me, after all, but was leading me to an unbelievable journey and lifestyle I had, unknowingly, always pined for.
That was five years ago. We never left Scotland, my husband and I. We fell in love with its calmer, cleaner way of life and with its people and their quaint, Gaelic speech. I continue to revel in the natural beauty of its many-faceted colors of autumn and inhale the delicate strength of its summer primroses and orchids. And always, is the heather. Called “The Carpet of the Highlands”, my favorites are purples and oranges that spread across hillside after hillside in this, my great-grandparent’s country. I once even found a glen of rare white heather known in Scottish folklore to be the resting place of fairies, reminding me of a pure white wedding quilt spread from sky to sky.
Bonnie Scotland, my home.
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