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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Lilac Scented Sackcloth
By Chely Roach
04/29/09


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What summons me here, after all this time? For so long I have stifled the compulsion to come; successfully ignoring the urge to dwell on this hill. I am drawn again to this morose place, to wallow among the cloying fragrance of lily and lilac that serve such a vain purpose.

Why do they feel the need to make such an ugly experience pretty? I never notice the beauty of the blooms or the symmetry of the gardens; when I leave I cannot recall the gentle cadence of the fountain or the refreshing shade beneath the tulip tree. When I am here I see nothing but the fading image of her face; it’s like the aura before a blinding headache…it begins as a distraction in my peripheral vision…growing larger and more intense as the moments pass. But if I try to look straight at it, it is not there. When I again focus on the horizon, the aura reappears. After a while, it’s gone. The absence of the aura brings the pain.

Is that why I am here? Do I miss the pain? There is a certain familiar comfort in it that pulls me back to its bosom, and I am sickened by the paradox that I both love and loathe to welcome it. I miss her so terribly that I ache for the ache of all that remains of her…the waves of grief left in her wake.

It’s deliciously paralyzing.

That is why I don’t come here anymore…I can’t afford the luxury of indulging her memory.

And what is the point? I methodically trace my fingers along the inscription in the hard, granite stone. I know her name. I know the dates. I know that the few bars of musical notes are from her favorite song—Satin Doll. But over the years I have realized that she’s not here; though the masochist in me sometimes doubts that she is there with You. What is the point of lingering in a garden of stone; among these monuments of death and loss? I have drenched this small plot of earth with a thousand lifetimes of tears…softening the soil with my agony. And for what? She is still gone. The void she left is still palpable.

When I think of the hours I have spent here—mostly in the spring and the fall—I hate myself for wasting yet another moment of my life. How many times have I come here to lament the whys of it all, yearning for inconceivable answers to questions that are unachievable this side of eternity? Do You despise a wasted life? How many soliloquies did I utter to her—as if she could hear my words, and answer my pleas for her return? All the years that I spoke to her instead of You, did it pain You? Make you yearn to draw me beneath Your wing like a hen shelters her chicks during a storm? I hate that I didn’t trust in You; or pour my heart out to He who made me. I hate that I wasted so much of my life dwelling amongst the dead.

There is one thing I am certain of when I leave this place—the enemy is on my heels; breathing down my neck. He revels in this morbid charade. Long after the mud has been washed from my knees, he enjoys pressing his talons into the flesh of my back; forcing me further and further down into the endless downward spiral of despair and pain and regret. As much as I abhor it, I am compelled to languish in the muck of my abyss…my self-imposed prison. The oppressiveness of the closing walls are so familiar that I submit to them. It is the hell that I know, in a world of unknowns.

I do not belong here.

I beg of You to help me.

Help me fight the wiles of the enemy and the seductive duplicity of this emotional noose. Give me the strength to resist the macabre, self indulgence that repeatedly brings me here.

I am weary of my heels sinking into the soft, cemetery mud. I am weary of laying my head upon her hard, pillow of stone.

Please, remove this torn, irritating sackcloth from my body.

Remove the ashes from my head.

Shine Your face upon me, and bring me into Your Light.


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This article has been read 830 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 04/30/09
Powerful story. You created a vivid, realistic picture of grief and the thoughts and emotions that accompany it. Excellent work.
Sonya Leigh05/01/09
This is a beautiful yet sad account of what so many suffer in this life. Thank you for writing it.

This line, "Help me fight the wiles of the enemy and the seductive duplicity of this emotional noose. Give me the strength to resist the macabre, self indulgence that repeatedly brings me here" is a beautiful prayer to our very present help in trouble. Well done.
Charla Diehl 05/02/09
I could picture this man hovering over his wife's grave and grieving for his loss. So many emotions fill a grieving heart, but only God can truly bring comfort. So glad this husband finally asked for help from the one that will not fail him.
Kristen Hester05/03/09
Very powerful. It is a good reminder when people have lost loves ones not to forget the pain they are still in, years later.
Catrina Bradley 05/03/09
I'm still absorbing this awesome piece. I think the MC's opening question is answered in his closing prayer. He had avoided the place, but had also avoided letting go. He had to return again to see that. Beautifully crafted writing, deep and though-provoking.
Myrna Noyes05/03/09
This is a very emotionally intense piece that clearly portrays the deep levels of grief we inhabit when a loved one dies.

These lines, particularly, touched me: "When I am here I see nothing but the fading image of her face; it’s like the aura before a blinding headache…it begins as a distraction in my peripheral vision…growing larger and more intense as the moments pass. But if I try to look straight at it, it is not there. When I again focus on the horizon, the aura reappears. After a while, it’s gone. The absence of the aura brings the pain."

I appreciated the sense of hopefullness at the end when your MC cried out for God's help.
Emily Gibson05/04/09
You have captured the essential necessity and eventual ensnaring trap of grief perfectly. The way out is prayer, lots and lots of prayers. One of the best this week.
Betty Castleberry05/06/09
Yea, what everybody else said. Beautiful, powerful.
Beckie Stewart05/06/09
Coming upon the anniversary of my precious father's death, I could so relate to this entry. Thanks for sharing.
Joshua Janoski05/06/09
I could feel the torment and agony inside this man. His pain became mine as I read.

I never did understand graveyards for the very reason you mentioned in this. The people aren't there, so why visit a stone?

Powerful writing. Very powerful.
Marita Thelander 05/06/09
Ah, it is that time again. Well written form of hammering out your grief. Prayed as I finished.
Loren T. Lowery05/07/09
This is stunningly beautiful there are just too many wonderful phrases to speak to individually. Your own words seem to sum up my take on this piece "It’s deliciously paralyzing." I also liked the symbolism when you expressed even after the mud has been washed from the knees. Congratulations on this well deserved EC win.
Myrna Noyes05/07/09
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR EC FOR THIS WELL-WRITTEN PIECE!! :)
Eliza Evans 05/07/09
Unstoppable YOU!

I wasn't going to read this b/c of your Prozac warning. lol (seriously) but then I came here and nibbled a little around the edges, to see if I could handle the intensity of it.:)And then I read the whole thing--slowly. I really sat with it. I'm so glad I did.
Beautiful, beautiful writing, Michele.

Congratulations! ...again and again and... ;)

Yay, you!
Mona Purvis05/10/09
Truly superb writing, draws the reader into the depths and keeps him there pondering.
You are a master of description.
Mona