Thursday, 04 October 2012
The Last Rose
By Jackie Harrison
The coffin sat opened beside the bed of my only sister. Though she insisted that I view the body of her deceased husband, I could not. I remained rooted to my chair in the family room with the atmosphere of death almost suffocating me.
I focused my eyes on the clock on the mantle to avoid looking in the direction of the bedroom; yet out of the corner of my eye, I could see the silver coffin. I shivered to think I would spend the night with Richard's dead body in the house with me.
"Just take a look," she insisted. "He looks so peaceful. I want to place him beside me in my bed and hold him once again but I know I can't. They say a dead body gives off poisonous toxins."
My sister, though grief-stricken by her loss, had a strange look of expectation upon her face. It troubled me. Her ethereal countenance and atypical behavior was a contradiction to her grief.
I suggested a walk outside in Richard's garden thinking this would ease her mind and give me a breath of fresh air.
Richard loved gardening. He had orchards of fruit trees and a vegetable garden. He especially loved his rose garden. I remembered when Richard asked me what my favorite color rose was and I said, "yellow." He grinned and said he would plant a bush just for me.
I looked in dismay at the brown stalks of rose bushes. Only one bush had survived. It was the yellow rosebush. A single, lovely yellow rose seemed to reach out to me.
"What happened to the rose garden?" I asked.
My sister said during the last few months Richard did not feel well enough to tend to it and she was too busy caring for him to take care of the roses.
She took me to the back of her house. She could hardly wait to show me the cemetery plot, about 70 feet from her back windows. There were three grave sites. I stood in disbelief. She owned 10 acres of land and chose to place a cemetery at her back doorstep!
She broke the silence. "I will soon lie here beside Richard. "I asked who the third grave site was for.
She said, "For you."
The evening passed rapidly with a house full of children and grandchildren who came to console my sister. Though my sister continued her insistence that family members view the corpse, they refused.
The next day, following the funeral services, Richard's body was laid to rest in the backyard where my sister could view it from her chair in the family room.
The day slipped by without much notice since people milled in and out. As the crowd dwindled and dispersed, dusk rolled in. The empty silence of the house in a woods of pine and oak trees was almost deafening.
I peered through the windows and watched heavy thunder clouds approach. Loud claps of thunder filled the air and lightning began to streak across the yard. Soon the pounding rain struck the roof and the winds began to howl. One tall pine tree cracked from a lighting strike. The lights flickered.
Suddenly there was a strange whining noise at the front door. I got out of my chair to look but my sister stopped me. She said, "I will get the door. It is Richard."
Before I could respond to this remark, she opened the door and a wet, straggly collie dog walked in beside her. The dog immediately leaped into Richard's chair, connected to hers, where he lay quietly as though this was his home. He did not appear to be hungry but was content to sit quietly next to her.
She said, "Richard has come to visit me," referring to the dog.
She began to speak to the dog, recalling past memories. He wagged his tail as if responding to her. She became so absorbed in her conversation with this dog that I slipped away unnoticed to my bedroom.
I laid down on my bed where I fell asleep.
A man-size collie walked through my room. It paused at my bed, then quietly moved out.
I walked to the family room window. The collie was lying on my sister's grave site. The last yellow rose lay on the site reserved for me.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]