Word Count 933
In memory of our loved ones who have gone on before us and in honor of those left behind.
Thanks so much to Lacy for all her help.
The old woman stood as the Mass ended. As the church began to empty, she settled back down in the pew and waited. Two young men stood protectively on either side of her. They were such good niños. Even though they had just escorted her to Sunday Mass a few days ago, they hadn’t minded bringing her to this special Mass on All Saints Day. With the celebration of Día de los Muertos tomorrow at the ranch, she had wanted some quiet time to pray for all her loved ones who were now only with her in spirit.
She looked up at the dark-haired young man who stood at her right and smiled. “Why don’t you two go outside for a while and talk to your friends? If you don’t mind, I’d like to sit here for a minute.”
“We don’t mind Abuela. Are you sure you are okay?” the blond man to her left asked.
She patted both men’s hands. “I’m fine. I’d just like a few minutes alone.”
The two men bent over, kissed her cheek and then left. She knew that they wouldn’t go far, they played the same game each Sunday. They pretended to leave her alone with her thoughts, she pretended she didn’t know they only went as far as the back pew.
She loved the hacienda, but with so many generations now living there, being alone was a hard commodity to come by. When she was younger, she could saddle up a horse and lose herself on the vast ranch. She smiled as she remembered a certain secluded pond that she used to visit. More often than not, ‘he’ usually joined her there once she had cooled off.
Now she hardly recognized herself. She had long ago stopped looking in the mirror each morning. The reflection she saw was not who she was in her mind. No, in her mind she was still the young woman with him by her side with his father, brother and old friends standing nearby. Where had the time gone? Once she had thought that their days were numbered, but God had been good and had lengthened their time together. They had been given a gift they had never thought to see, time to grow old together and see their children and grandchildren.
She was alone now.
Not really, of course. The two young men watching out for her in the back of the church proved that. She really wasn’t abuela to the blond young man but the cousins were as close to her and to each other as their namesakes, their grandfathers, had been.
There were other grandchildren and nephews and nieces to love at home besides these two. The two Lancer brothers had had large families once they settled down and their children had followed that tradition. Once grown, most of the children and grandchildren had settled in the same area as successful ranchers, businessmen, fathers and mothers. She even had one grandson in seminary who would soon return to Morro Coyo as an assistant priest.
The silence of the church was broken by a chuckle that slipped out from the old woman. A priest. Could anyone ever have imagined that a grandson of his would have become a priest? Well, that just proved that God did have a sense of humor.
She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she could see them all so clearly right in front of her. Her soul mate Johnny, Scott, Murdoch, Val, Jack, Maria, Cipriano, Jelly, Teresa, they all stood before her smiling. They looked just as they had sixty years ago. What had she ever done to deserve all of them? She must remember to say another prayer to St. Anthony thanking him again for helping that lost little girl so long ago find more than she ever dreamed.
The love emanating from her departed loved ones filled her until she thought her heart would burst. Her eyes settled on ‘him’ and he gave her that grin that she loved so well. She closed her eyes and tears dripped softly down her cheeks. Oh, how she missed him!
She loved her family in the here and now but she missed the family she once had. Once, all of them had been vagabonds in life, but fate, in the guise of a Pinkerton report, had brought them together and they had forged a family that would last throughout all time. How wonderful that on this special holy day, All Saints Day, she could see them all together.
A cough from the back of the church alerted her that it was time to leave. The image of her loved ones slowly faded away. She sighed and her heart grew heavy. The church began to grow darker as slowly, one by one, the candles began to burn down. They sputtered and flickered as they burned out, a curl of smoke all that remained.
The old woman bowed her head in sadness. As her thoughts turned once more to him she felt the simple silver band on her left ring finger grow warm. The warmth spread to her whole hand. She smiled and her heart grew lighter as she felt a whisper against her cheek.
“Te amo siempre y para siempre.”
(“I love you always and forever.”)
Nov. 1, 2016
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