Little Laura by Sophia Bungay
I like to spend time in the garden when I can. The red and yellow rose bushes, the tulips and carnations give off such heady aroma I can feel it throughout me. It helps me keep contact with the earthly world around me. It helps keep me here, which I am grateful for.
I was spending time there today, enjoying the sunlight playing off the stone and marble tombstones as it filtered through the weeping willow trees covered in Spanish moss, when she came, on schedule, to visit me. As she came through the gate and up through the path that wound through the garden I knew it was her, recognized her from my knowing in my heart and my memories. And though the years have taken a toll on her she is still recognizable to me as my Mother.
I sat on the edge of the angel fountain as I watched her. She is always so full of sorrow when she visits me and the rest of us that have left her, that I hurt for her. To watch her suffer and not know that we are here is painful and too much for the others to bear. So they have gone on while I remain. I cannot leave now, not yet, when I see my Mother all alone in the world and still searching for the meaning of death. Maybe it is because I was so young when I left her.
I watched her as she paused in the garden, sadness and longing written on her face as she walked towards me, deep in thought. I know she misses us and oh how I long to reach out to her and feel her pull me close to her as she used to do. Or perhaps, this time, I would be the one, wrapping her in my childlike arms and take away her pain with a kiss to her forehead. She used to do that for me, when I skinned my knee on the sidewalk in front of our house, trying to keep up with my older sisters and the games they would play.
I often wonder about that; what it would be like when I finally am seen by her, when she has left the earthly world of the physical and joined me here. I think of it constantly because that is why I am here, watching, and waiting.
She moved out of the garden and away from me, up the path to the Mausoleum. I watched her disappear from sight around the corner and then followed her. I hate it that she suffers so silently, not letting anyone alive know her pain. They all think she is so strong, elegant, stoic. If they only knew the truth of it. That she cries herself to sleep at night when her house is too quiet around her; that she hides her grief and sadness from them so she doesn’t worry them. But I know differently. I know the truth.
As I reached her she was in the mausoleum, surrounded by brown swirled marble that are the crypts for departed loved ones. She diligently moved from one crypt to the other as she read the gold lettering of the names to herself, perhaps trying to contact us. But I am the only one there, watching as she touches the gold lettering of my sister’s name so delicately with her frail hand, as if to reach out and caress my sister, or the memories of her, and the love that is still very much alive and well.
She stopped as tears welled up in her eyes and travelled down her soft white cheeks and she wiped them away with a trembling hand.
“Mommy, I’m here.” I whispered in her ear but I know she cannot hear me. It hurts that she can’t. I long to have her respond and know that I’m here. Oh and to feel her hands on me once again as I fall into her arms. Oh God, a Mother’s love. So rapt in love and in the ultimate treasure is that it is like when you die and you’re lost and confused and your guardian angel takes you in his embrace, white feathered wings wrapping around you in love and comfort and you know all is right with the world… but I digress.
I watched as my Mother wiped the tears away and unwrapped the bundle that was in her arms. She delicately folded back the tissue to reveal flowers, white roses, which she started to put in each little vase that is on our crypts below our names. She said our names out loud as she gave each one of us our flowers.
“Ann, I miss you how your daughter has grown… You would be proud.” she said as she places a flower in my sister’s vase. “Oswald Paul, my beloved husband, I miss you.” she murmured as she placed one for him next to his name.
“Lynn… Oh love, if you knew what the world was like without you… So cold… Your family is strong though and we miss you.” she said as she placed a white rose in my recently deceased sister’s vase.
Lynn’s lettering is still fresh on the marble and glints of its newness. It has only been five years. She left me soon after coming here. Told me of her life and the cancer that took her from her family. She told me I should come too, that there are things we should be doing as souls, as a part of heaven. But I refused. “My Momma needs me.” I said. My older sister just smiled and shook her head and told me she would be waiting for me with the others. And then she had disappeared. So I am resolved to at least wait on my own for Mommy. I must wait for her. She used to take me shopping and I would hold on to her with my little hand on her skirts as we ascended into the shops full of bustling women, busy at their own things. Maybe that is what I’m waiting for. To take her skirt in my little hand and go up to heaven with her.
My sister had left me then, but soon after her family had come to say goodbye, tears filled their eyes as they had wept and her daughter had fallen to her knees in shock. I had watched on, wishing I could help, but knowing they couldn’t see or hear me, and knowing I wasn’t the one they wanted anyway. They wanted her back. Once, the daughter came around to my crypt, just as my Mother does, and had reached out and touched the lettering. I had yearned to talk to her then. She seemed so sad that we had never met.
Mommy stopped in front of my crypt, my name spelled out and beautiful, but cold as the bronze it is made of. I ached to hold her and moved towards her, my small feet not touching the marble floor as I approached and reached out for her.
“Do not cry Mommy. I’m here. Your little Laura is here.” I said as she placed a small budding white rose in my vase. “Mommy, please hear me. I’m right here! I have never left. I’m still here. I know I was taken young. The boat the party was on, seized in a wave, tossing me overboard, out of your love and into the cold lake, who’s undertow took me from you and our family forever… But Mommy, it’s not forever. It’s just until you come here. Then we can be together and we can go to heaven. Mommy… ” I started to cry, unable to control what I felt, tears and memories. She stared at my name for longer than usual. Had she felt my presence or heard me? Did my words ring true in her ears?
My guardian angel is watching over me, I know. He had tried to convince me that this was useless, this waiting for her and living in the past, not moving on towards the white light or going on towards what heaven is and possibly my soul’s future. I tried to make him understand that it was because I love Mommy so, and I’ve never gone anywhere without her, so why should I start now. So, now he watches and waits, knowing that I am suffering pain where I should suffer no more, because I chose to stay here, and wait for her.
So, as I was crying, I could feel his eyes on me and I turned to look at where he might be; but he had decided to remain hidden. I turned back to Mommy and couldn’t help myself. I clutched onto her skirt, my little hands gripping the flowered fabric in my little fist as I looked up at her. I can imagine the warmth of her and the smell of her sweet perfume as she sweeps me up in her arms. I am so swept up in her, in her movements, in the feelings that I can feel and the longing coming from her, that I do not notice that I was not alone anymore.
“Little Laura, oh sweety… how I miss you,” Momma whispered as she touched the cold marble wall. I cry harder now, tears flowing down my cheeks. At least, I can imagine tears for her and I.
“Mommy…” I cry through my tears that well up within me. She looked around then, like she heard something. I am almost startled by this movement and pull away from her as she looked down at her skirt, touching where my fist had just been. Did she feel me there, clutching onto her like I used to? She stared at the skirt for a moment and brushes it out, thinking. An overwhelming sense of loss and memories rushed from her as she stared down at the corner that I had just held.
“She remembers me doing this,” I breathed to myself. As I start to lose my sense of balance and want to rush into her arms and ask her to see me and love me, a warm, loving hand is placed on my small shoulder. I looked up and see my Father standing there, smiling down at me. I hugged him and he embraced me in his big arms and I forgot, just for the moment, that we are deceased.
“Daddy?” I asked in a small voice. He simply smiled, and hugged me tighter. I looked up at him with huge eyes, filled with love for him. And he returned that look, loving me fully and caring how I felt. Knowing that I needed him, he came here to hold me and comfort me. Happy again from his presence I released him from my grip and he held my hand in his as we turn to look at our dear Mommy, his wife. He watched her, almost longing to touch her too, but doesn’t. I know a little of how he felt.
“She will be with us soon Laura.” he whispered to me and smiles again. “When the time is right.”
We watched her brush off her skirt and put the thought of me being there now behind her, or at least in the back of her mind. She looked up at all of our names, golden and brilliant in the sun, and smiles, as a single tear runs down her cheek.
“I love you all and my life is better having known you.” she said, silently, almost to herself.
She then picked up the tissue that had held our roses which had fallen to the ground, and folded it carefully, thinking of us. We felt the love emanating out of her thoughts and I gripped onto my Father’s hand as I close my eyes and let the love wash over me in waves. My Father watched his wife as she poured her love and longing out to us and as I opened my eyes again he reached for her. Before the angels can stop him or I can question it, he touched her white hair, very delicately.
“Marie.. We are here and with you… If I could only show you how much you are missed and loved.” he whispered to her from our side of death. In death he is as regal as he ever was in his prime and still very much the gentleman.
She sighed deeply then, folding the tissue even smaller as she tries to put off leaving. She is not looking at us, but at our names and than answers him, or seems to.
“I love you all… And miss you Oswald… More then words can express. The old house is so quiet now with all of you gone. It isn’t the same anymore. We had our time though, this I know. There has to be a reason why I am still here.” she said, choking on the words and tears ran down her cheeks. She sighed as she got ahold of herself again.
“Its almost as if when I come here I can feel you near…” she said, crumbled the tissue in her hand and walked slowly away from us, down the hall of the mausoleum.
I watched my Father stare after her, wanting so much to reach out to her, and I could feel his yearning. I squeezed his hand to make sure he knows I understand how he feels and we walked, two ghostly specters, out of the marble building and into the garden.
We watched her move past the rose bushes, fully in bloom and stop at the fountain. As we caught up to her and reached the fountain she moved on towards the gates and out to the street. We watched her disappear through the gate and into the mundane world outside and we collectively sighed. I looked up at Daddy and he smiled at me.
“Will you come home now?” he asked in a most loving tone. But I just shook my head in answer. He knows what I want to do, knows what is in my heart, and knows I won’t give up waiting. He smiled and nodded, and then hugged me once more before disappearing.
I am alone in the garden now. And I sit on the edge of the fountain and stare at the roses and carnations and the Spanish moss clinging to the weeping willow tree. It stretches out in the breeze and reaches for something. For me? For our kind? For the angels on high or the ghosts that are waiting for their Mommies to come home and join them? Perhaps…