It was just over a year ago, that I’d sat on this very step, my emotions raw, my welcome uncertain.
It was on that day that I began taking my first steps toward healing, even as my grandfather lay dying in his four poster bed in the room at the top of the stairs. I had come here then, after a long absence, and found forgiveness and love in the pages of an open Bible, and in my Grandpa’s love.
As I looked around, I felt a chill. The once familiar home, now abandoned, was more like a haunted mansion, cold and drafty.
The house stood empty and I felt a shiver, hugging my sweater more tightly. The great, stone fireplace, once a centerpiece of the house, now resembled a vacated cave, unlit and empty. Even the ashes had long ago been swept away. The walls were clammy and dingy from neglect, and cracks appeared in the ceiling. The once immaculately pressed and cleaned drapes hung tattered and as dejected as the rest of the house.
“Shame it’s just been allowed to go down like this.” My cousin, Joey’s voice echoed as he descended the stair case. Reaching down to take my hand he helped me to my feet. “First time you’ve been back since last year?”
“Yes, I was only here again for Grandpa’s funeral.”
We walked across the entryway and Joey opened the door for me. I stood for a moment, looking at the cold November day outside, and then looked back at the deserted home. As the door swung open just a little more, a sunbeam, illuminating the luster of the pine panels of the walls and floors, cast a warm welcoming glow.
“What is it?” asked Joey, leaning back inside the doorframe.
“Nothing,” I said. Just for the twinkle of an instant I had felt a summer breeze. I had also heard laughter coming from the kitchen and smelled the fragrance of apple pie, hot out of the oven.
The cemetery, just down the road, was guarded by an oak that stood at least sixty feet tall. Beside the tree, a well maintained, wrought-iron gate swung easily open for us.
“Looks like their final resting place is at least a bit better maintained,” Joey observed.
I sat sobbing for a while before the graves of my grandparents, while Joey stood silently, waiting for me. Next, I moved on to the place where my parents were buried.
Marble grave markers were the silent sentries of my progress. Moss hung from the sycamore trees that lined the edges of the cemetery, just outside the iron fence. An icy blast of coming winter scattered dry leaves and trash that collected against the headstones.
Squatting, I brushed the leaves away from my mother’s grave and replaced them with a bouquet of hyacinth and heather, her favorite flowers, tied with a ribbon. I paused there with fresh tears, before pushing them back and moving on to the grave of my father. For the first time since his death, I was finally able to stand here and grieve.
“Cassie, you need to face him and tell him how you feel,” my counselor, Melinda, had told me.
Melinda had finally identified unresolved grief that had accumulated and manifested itself in some digestive and mental issues. First was the unexpected pregnancy that resulted both in the warm and welcome blessing of my daughter, and at the same time the cold, heartless rejection of my Dad. Just after Angie was born, I lost my Grandmother. I raise Angie on my own, and finally returned when Joey had called to let me know my grandfather was near the end.
I was here to speak to my Daddy as I hadn’t been able to do since that time.
“Daddy,” I sobbed, as cold anger turned to hot tears. “I know I disappointed you. And I’m terribly sorry. But, I also need to tell you that I’ve learned about forgiveness, and I’ve learned that I’ve been forgiven. So I forgive you for rejecting me and Angie. You would have loved Angie you know, Daddy.” I couldn’t say any more, continuing to weep. Joey put a comforting arm around my shoulders.
My sobs finally subsided.
The cold air was invigorating.
“Why don’t we get something to eat?” suggested Joey.
“A hot cup of coffee and a hot piece of apple pie!” I agreed.
“Topped of course, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!” he laughed heartily.
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