7 September 2020

It was perfect. Wrapped in our blankets against the early morning air, we watched the grey clouds slowly transform into shades of pinks and purples, and then brilliant red. The morning stillness was broken by the twittering of a flock of little finches, then a butterfly settled itself on your blanket for but a moment. The mist rising from the lake allowed us to gaze upon the sudden flash of orange without being blinded as the sun peeped over the horizon. You turned to me and smiled, a smile more dazzling than any sunrise, you stretched out your hand and lightly touched my arm, and whispered: “Thank you.”

We sat there a while longer, then, after you fell asleep, I carried you back inside the little cabin and sat you on the couch while I made some steaming hot chocolate. I had fulfilled your last wish; to see one more sunrise before you died.

It certainly was a mission to find this place – I wanted your last sunrise to be spectacular, and most destinations do not include sunrises in their adverts. I also needed somewhere close by, as you could not travel far, so I decided to advertise what I needed. I asked whether anyone knew of a quiet holiday resort close to the city with beautiful sunrises, and that I could not book weeks in advance as this was rather urgent.  The response was overwhelming; holiday destinations near and far, but no one could tell me if they had sunrises over a lake.

I was not looking for entertainment or gourmet meals, and I was becoming rather downhearted when I received a phone call from a young lady. I had not even mentioned that you did not have long to live, or that this was your final wish, but somehow she was able to read between the lines.

She told me of her Dad’s fishing cabin an hour’s drive from the city, and how he had loved it because of the beautiful sunrises – sadly he had passed away, and now the cabin was standing empty. She wouldn’t even take any money for it; she said that she knew how cancer treatment ate into your funds no matter what medical scheme you were on. That young lady has restored my faith in humanity – there are still good people on this earth.

The next problem was to book you out of hospital. Doctors, nurses, and specialists were all concerned; they wanted you to stay in hospital where they could keep an eye on you and treat you as necessary. “What would the treatment help,” I asked if they couldn’t save you. All you wanted was to die in peace, away from the endless clanging of bedpans, doctor’s rounds, nurses coming with pills and needles. I filled in the necessary forms refusing any more medical treatment, and carried you out. You were so light; nothing but skin and bone, and yet your beautiful eyes were shining with excitement, you were like a naughty little child playing hooky from school, and I was the accomplice.

21 September 2020

We could not even have a proper funeral with this Covid lockdown. People zoomed in from all over the country. Friends phoned and sent messages. The house is full of flowers, and the fridge is full of casseroles brought by kind-hearted neighbours, but I am empty. There is a hole inside of me that can never be filled.

I received your ashes today in a beautiful urn. The weight was slightly less than what you weighed when I brought you from the hospital, but my heart is twice as heavy. I drove straight here to this little cabin in the woods just as we did two weeks ago. I spoke to your ashes as though you were listening to me. It was the last time that I would ever be with you as you had one more last wish. While we were sitting watching the sunrise, you said: “I would love my ashes to be scattered in this lake as it is so peaceful.”

This lake is peaceful. As soon as I arrived here I placed your urn in the little boat and rowed out to the middle of the lake. It took a while before I was able to scatter your ashes; if I scattered them there would be nothing left to hold on to; it would be a final goodbye. Even in your pain you were more concerned about me than yourself; you told me that I was to remember the good times and move on.

We had good times; we had great times; now I must say goodbye. I open the urn and empty it into the wind which catches your ashes and swirls them around, reminding me of the beautiful hair that you once had, then they settle on the water. I sit watching as the last remnants of you float away, and now the tears have come. Up until now I thought that I had no more tears to cry; I couldn’t have been more wrong. I am sobbing great hulking sobs. I am a big man, but without you I am nothing.

The moon is high. It is a beautiful full moon, and I am still sitting in the middle of the lake, incapable of rowing back to shore. I am bathed in moonlight, but there is no warmth in it. If you were here the moon’s radiance would be glowing, you would be gazing up at the stars and telling me just how beautiful life is, and that we should treasure every moment. I do treasure every moment that I spent with you. My only regret is that our time together was so short. I want to spend eternity with you.

The reflection of the moon is a silver path across the lake; is this moonbeam a pathway to you. When I look into the future, all I see is a long empty void without you. If I step out onto the moonbeam will it take me to you, or will I flounder and start swimming to shore?

November 20, 2020 06:45

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Laurel Hanson
14:25 Dec 11, 2022

This is gorgeous. Highly relatable as well; the extraordinary sadness of the covid funerals and the loss that represented to those experiencing the unprecedented inability to mourn in the conventional ways. is expressed here so gracefully.


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Ron Davidson
19:37 Aug 08, 2022

Heather, I know it has been awhile since you wrote this, but after you "liked" one of my stories I jumped over here and I'm glad I did. This is such a beautiful story. You do a great job of pulling the reader along even though we know where it is heading. I could feel the emotions of the moment. Well done! Keep writing! -Ron


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Yvonne Clarke
18:44 Mar 19, 2022

Sad but beautiful; well paced and a great ending!


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Cyan Villanueva
21:50 Nov 25, 2020

This is... just such a beautiful piece. The sad category listing didn’t prepare me. The way you write is so lovely! Well done.


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Grace Larson
18:39 Nov 24, 2020

Wow...words fail me. This is an incredibly beautiful piece! The descriptions, the touching pathos of bringing one of the main characters to see her final sunrise, the heartbreaking ending...completely blown away!! I felt I could really step into what your characters were feeling and thinking and this made the story come alive for me. Again, beautiful job and hope to see more of your work soon!


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