Sunday, November 28, 2010
A Gift For You
[This is my fictionalized account of an event that really happened. I read about it somewhere, in a magazine where a mother had written a letter to the editor, and I decided to turn it into a story.]
She was sitting, at two p.m. on that Thursday afternoon, in the high-backed dusty blue armchair, looking out the picture window at the March rain lashing down. The trees were whipping back and forth, the sound of the gale battering against the roof. Branches were crashing to the ground. The lawn was littered with short lengths of pine and fir.
She was a small woman, hunched dismally in rumpled pajamas she had not changed for days. Her short hair, which she had always kept curled neatly, was straight and lank, sticking out at odd angles, from tossing and turning in bed all night. She felt utterly bleak and hopeless, without the strength or motivation to even shower. Her eyes and nose were red and swollen. She could not stop crying, sniffling endlessly, the tears running down her face in tandem with the raindrops pouring in rivulets down the windowpane. Wadded up tissues were heaped on the end table, beside the Kleenex box proferring fresh replacements. Since her sixteen year old son Luke's death from a brain tumor six months ago, the light had gone out of the world. There wasn't any point, really, in getting up in the morning, in dressing, in going through all the old routines which had had purpose when she was joyously watching her son growing, living his life. And then, her purpose had been to see him through his illness and, unbelievably, his death. Without him, the house - and her life - was too empty to be borne. At first she had waited, expecting at some point her grief would lessen, things would improve. But it hadn't gotten any better. She didn't see how it ever could.
Luke had been a tall, lanky, laughing boy with messy blonde hair, smiling blue eyes, all knees and elbows, flushed cheeks and happy grins, until he got sick. When he burst in the door after school with his friends, the house had come alive with rough, shoving, tumbling boys on colt-like legs, scooping up great handfuls of cookies on their way downstairs to the family room.
Now the house was lifeless; it was empty space. Her heart, too, felt dead inside her body. There was no point, there was no point in continuing to wake up each morning. She had been here to be Luke's mother, and Luke was gone.
She turned her eyes from the window and the storm, absently shaking ther pill bottle in her left hand. She assessed its contents. It was two-thirds full. There should be enough pills to do the job. She just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up, to be out of the pain of this existence and with her son, wherever he was.
She stood up with purpose and moved to the kitchen. Standing at the sink, she drew a tall glass of cold water, setting it on the counter while she removed the lid from the pill bottle.
Suddenly the bottle flew from her hand as if it had been slapped out, the pills scattering all over the floor.
Distinctly, she felt her son's presence, she heard his voice inside her head. It was chiding, admonishing, yet full of love. "Mom, no! It's not your time. You have to keep on. And, Mom. My life was meant as a gift for you."
Then he was gone.
She stood in shock, trying to process what had just happened. She had been drawing the water, readying the pills. She had not dropped the bottle, it had been slapped out of her hand. The voice came from within her. Not her thoughts, his voice inside her head, as clearly as if he stood beside her. Strong, explaining with conviction, trying to make her understand. So Luke was still around, he was nearby, still concerned about her. He must have been worrying about her these past months, must have seen the depth of her suffering, the times she couldn't get out of bed, the turning away from life, from people, reclusive in her misery. It must have been hard on him.
"My life was meant as a gift for you, a gift for you....."
A gift. A gift given, then taken away. That pain was unbearable. But......a gift nevertheless. To have never had sixteen years with Luke at all? A small shift occurred inside her, a small window of understanding beginning to open.
She had been focussing on his death, his absence, rather than celebrating the incredible blessing his sixteen years had been in her life. And now she knew that, while he was no longer physically present, still his spirit was near, close enough that she could talk to him. This gave her great comfort and, finally, hope.
Slowly, she knelt down and began to gather the pills. She returned them to the bottle, decisively snapped the lid back on and threw it in the garbage.
"Thank you, Luke," she murmured. "I'm sorry. I'll.....I'll do better now."