by Angela R. Watts
First Place Winner Summer 2018
The young woman slowly knelt by the grassy grave, the golden world around her silent. Comforting. Peaceful. A humid breeze sent her blond hair across her cheeks, making her shudder.
Taylor didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t see the engraved name on the tombstone — Theodore L. Brooks — through the heavy tears that threatened to fall. She’d had lots of practice fighting tears: when her parents wept at the end of another long day, she would not break alongside them. When her older sister broke into tears at the sight of a man in Army uniform walking through the grocery store. Taylor put her arm around her sister to strengthen her. When Amazing Grace was played at Taylor’s nephew’s baseball game and Taylor’s whole family seemed to struggle to keep it together. Taylor refused to weep at the sight of the beautiful flag shimmering against the blue skies.
There were times when Taylor was simply too heartbroken and lost to cry more tears: her body didn’t make enough tears to rid the sadness.
Two years. Two years was a long time. Many things could happen during that time, and so much life prospered and thrived.
But when someone was gone, two years was a weary walk, marked down by days and hours of pain and emptiness. Two years was more than an eternity.
She wanted to tell Theodore the farm was doing well. That the youngest daughter of their sister was beginning to crawl and liked trying to eat any flowers she found. That their younger brother Olly had a sweetheart and was going to ask her to marry him that August. That their parents had turned to the Lord to keep living and guiding their family, even when they missed their oldest son more than words could ever say. She needed to tell him that they were all finding joy in Jesus, despite the hollow gap in the world without him.
But she couldn’t.
Taylor held back a sob. The sorrow of losing Theo… It wasn’t just sadness. It was huge, suffocating, larger than life. And she couldn’t run from it. She couldn’t run from losing Theo, nor could she bring him back.
If she could have spoken past the lump in her throat, she would have told Theo how the sun’s colors melted as it set behind the rolling hills. She would’ve described how magnificently the light blue sky grew wisps of dark red and orange blotches of colors, making the world glow.
But she didn’t tell him any of this. She could force no happy or optimistic words from her lips, like she so often did around her family and friends.
Two years hadn’t made things better.
Time didn’t heal wounds. And her brother holding a gun to his head and pulling the trigger hadn’t healed his own wounds, either. It hadn’t fixed any of the problems he and his family had faced.
And Taylor couldn’t piece it back together. She couldn’t bring Theo back. Two years, and the fact her brother’s body was nothing but dust in the ground still made her sick.
With sweaty palms, she placed the tiny flower bouquet on the grave. Theo had always liked roses — far before Taylor had been born, their great-grandparents grew a rose garden on their small farm in Florida. Great, lush bushes with beautiful flowers that smelled like heaven lined their old yard. Taylor didn’t have a green thumb, but her little brother did, and he grew rose bushes that would make their Gran and Gramps proud.
And when Taylor had gotten into her little car to drive to the cemetery that evening, Olly had handed her the bouquet and said: “Take some to Theo, Taylor. He’d like them.”
She had brought the flowers and a list of things to say. It’d been a long, long time since she’d visited.
But she couldn’t say any of those things. It wasn’t right… It wasn’t right how things had ended. Things weren’t supposed to end. Never like that. The circle of life was things turning to dust — after a long life.
Theo had had so much life in him. So many laughs to crack up with, pranks to pull on his siblings, hugs to give to his mother, holiday gifts to give (he’d always loved giving gifts, especially silly ones). Theo hadn’t been finished being Theo. But it was over now, wasn’t it? Theo was gone.
Tears burned Taylor’s eyes and she covered her face. She wanted to see Theo smile again. Hear his voice when he talked about something he enjoyed or was passionate about, like helping kids in the slums and offering his help to the elderly neighbors. She was forgetting his face and only remembered the details of his freckled face from pictures she kept near her bedside.
It wasn’t right! Why had Theo taken his own life? What future did Theo face now? How could Taylor cling to God’s mercy and promises when it felt like Theo’s eternity was in ruins because of what he’d done? How did she find answers? Find peace? She was trying. Praying. But she hadn’t found answers. Maybe she would never find answers, and she’d have to live in the peace that God was in control of what she didn’t know.
God loved Theo, more than Taylor did. God hadn’t forgotten about Taylor, either, though she so often thought He had. She trusted Him. She wasn’t surviving the pain alone. God was comforting her, keeping her alive. One day… One day, she would be able to find joy in God, too. One day, she’d dance with Him instead of just weeping in His arms. One day soon. And, perhaps the days would change, too: one day she’d be weeping but with trust she’d dance again, and one day dancing with faith that God wouldn’t leave her when her legs gave out.
Taylor closed her eyes, weeping, and told Theo: “I miss you. But I’m glad you’re home… with Gran and Gramps… And we’ll see you. We’ll be home there… With more roses than we can ever imagine.”