“How am I supposed to live without you?” I asked him, tears rushing down my cheeks. He and I were surrounded, but most of the names I did not recognize. I sat staring ahead, despair enveloping me as I tried to put into words how I felt about his leaving me, shattering my life forever. It was difficult for my teenage mind to grasp.
Crickets chirped in the darkness as the moon slid under the clouds. The leaves on the trees swayed to and fro as the wind picked up its speed. I shivered and raised the collar of his plaid hunting jacket over my slender neck.
I sat down on the concrete bench next to the rose bush that was now between us, crossed my ankles, and then wedged my hands under the backs of my knees to keep them warm. The smell of flowers assaulted my senses causing my eyes to burn as I struggled to swallow the lump forming in my throat.
“Life isn’t worth living without you”, I whispered so he alone could hear me. I sobbed uncontrollably, praying he would respond, but all was silent, save the wind rustling through the trees. Piece by piece, I was torn and crumbled.
“Please take me with you”, I pleaded. “I need you”. By that time, I was prostrate before him, totally unaware of my surroundings and so immersed in my desperation that when I thought I heard the pitiful, heart-wrenching screams piercing the evening air, I hadn’t realized they were pouring from my own lips.
Within moments, my father had knelt down beside me and wrapped me in his arms, consoling me. He held me as I emptied my grief, begging the Lord for His help, until finally I had quieted.
“It’s time to go now, Sweetheart”, he soothed me, with his loving, velvety voice. “What you need now is rest”.
All around us, mercury-vapor lights had snapped on, buzzing and casting an eerie glow in the fog that had rolled in, with pinpoints of fairy lights—the lightning bugs that were dancing in the night.
I could hear the echo of our steps as my father and I walked in unison down the paved walkway toward the car. I prayed that he would take the single rose that I had left him as a sign of my love—it had always been our special message to each other.
As we exited down the long, winding road, I turned to take one last look. Tears of relief coursed down my cheeks when I discovered that the rose was gone—it had disappeared from on top of his gravestone.