I’d never been to a wake before, until today. My parents made me stand next to them in the receiving line for two hours, as one person after another stopped, shook my hand and said how sorry they were. I didn’t want to ‘receive’ their condolences, or anything else for that matter. I just wanted to run away, as fast and as far as I could.
When the torture was finally over, I was allowed to escape to the silence of my room. I laid down on the bed, closed my eyes and wondered: Is this what it felt like Jacob? You were laying on a silky white sheet, your head cradled by a fluffy pillow, your hands stretched out beside you. Everyone said you were very handsome, and looked like you were sleeping. Mom bought you a new shirt and pants for the terrible occasion, and your hair was combed exactly like mine. Although your lips were thin and closed, I visualized your smile, the one that only we shared.
Burying my face deep into the comforter, I sobbed for the longest time while replaying the horrifying accident. When I was able to sit up, I looked over at Jacob’s empty bed, and again became overwhelmed by grief. My head exploded with questions: How am I ever going to get through this? Why? Why did he have to fall? Wasn’t there something I could have done to help him? Will Jacob ever forgive me?
Grabbing a pen and a notebook from my desk, I sat down at the foot of his bed and decided to write him letter:
I swear I never meant to hurt you. It was an accident! We’ve hiked around that gorge hundreds of times and neither of us ever got so much as a scratch. I hate thinking about the second you tripped over my hiking boot and flew head first over the ledge. If not for the lone tree growing horizontally out of the rocks, you would have sailed to the very bottom. A branch pressed against your chest, and dropped you into a crevice a few feet below. I had to leave you Jacob. I had to get help. I’m so sorry I couldn’t climb down to save you. You can’t begin to imagine how sorry I am. I’m sorry for me too. Why did you have to trip Jacob? Why did you have to leave me?
I never really believed in heaven, until I saw your lifeless body placed gently on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance. At that very moment, I knew you were on your way to Paradise. Then I collapsed onto the hot sand, getting as close to Hell as I possibly could.
Someone picked me up and put me into the back of a police car. I think people were talking to me since I saw their mouths moving, but I didn’t hear anything. All I did was stare at my reflection in the Plexiglass divider. I wanted to believe you were alive and sitting there, right across from me.
I remember when Casey died. We walked down to the creek and hurled stones into the water until our arms ached. You said, “Casey crossed the Rainbow Bridge and would patiently wait until we could see her again”. If that’s really true, she’s leaning up against you now, as you stroke her head and scratch behind her ears.
I know my life won’t be the same without you Jacob and I feel so afraid and alone. I thought the bond we shared for 16 years was strong and unbreakable, but now it’s shattered, and the most important part of me is gone.
The love I feel for you has only grown stronger, and nothing will ever change that.
Your other half,
I put the letter into an envelope, and as silly as it may sound, I attached a Forever stamp and addressed it to:
I changed my clothes, laced up my hiking boots, put the envelope in my back pocket and headed out the door. My parents hollered for me to come back, but I was on a mission and would deal with the consequences later.
I retraced our steps heading back to the gorge and stood at the exact spot where I held my breath and Jacob’s was taken seconds later. The sand was still hot and the tree remained tightly secured by its deep roots. What I said aloud was personal, meant only for my brother and for me. When I finished, I held up the letter and a gust of wind lifted it from my hand and guided it across the valley and out of sight.
After our hikes, Jacob and I always went into town for ice-cream. I was half-way there before I even realized it. I suppose it’s true… old habits never die.
To my surprise, there was no line at the ice cream shop. I ordered the usual, two chocolate/vanilla twist cones with rainbow sprinkles. Holding one in each hand, I sat down on our favorite bench to indulge, people watch and enjoy a sweet memory.
After eating, Jacob and I made sure to check out the new books and magazines in the book store window. Today wasn’t going to be any different. However, as I approached, I could see there wasn’t a single thing on display. But I did notice someone who looked exactly like me, staring out through the glass. When we made direct eye contact a feeling of warmth flowed through my body. I felt energized and calm at the exact same time. In his left hand he held Casey’s collar and with his right, gave a thumb’s up as if to say, everything is fine, no need to worry. We smiled, in mirror image, and I felt whole again. Moments later, the lights above him flickered, and he was gone. In his place was a new book titled,
“Where there is Love, no one ever Dies”
by Jacob Hart