Gone But Not Forgotten
by Nicole Cater
She passed away. She moved on. She went to her heavenly reward. She died. Too young, I’m sure they said. Only 45, so much life left to live. Think of her poor children. Her little boy, does he even know what is happening? She died.
I feel bad for this woman, so sick, so young, so much to live for, now so gone. How do you mourn someone you never met? More importantly, how are you supposed to feel when one woman’s tragedy is the best gift you've ever received? She is nowhere and everywhere. I’ll never see her. I cannot hide from her.
There she is, her name tattooed on the shoulder blade of my love. Again, on his bicep, the hourglass, sand run down to nothing, the date, the last day of her life. A mere 20 days before the last day of my marriage. The little boy, not so little, taller than me even, on the cusp of manhood. He looks like her. I’ve never seen her picture. But I know he doesn't look like his father. He must look like her. He looks like the woman he doesn't even remember. He calls her mom. He calls me mom. We share him, and I hope, if she knows, she doesn't mind.
They hang coats over chairs. I hang them in the closet. A small thing a woman does, without being asked, without being acknowledged, because that’s where coats go. And there is the box. Lovingly wrapped in a special t-shirt. Here she is. This is her. For months she was hidden behind a box of tools. I found her when I was looking for a drill. I didn't know what to do.
When the man is at work and the boy is at school, sometimes I sit with her. I tell her I’m sorry she lost her family. I promise her I am taking the best care possible of them. I swear her son will become a good man. I remind her she was first; I’m no replacement, I just came after. I clean her box, making sure it is not dusty or dirty. I re-wrap the special shirt around her. She no longer hides behind other boxes. She has her own place of honor. She sits on a high shelf, where she can watch, if she chooses, to make sure the man she loved and the boy she birthed are being well cared for.
I think she will rest. I will not forget her. I will not let them forget her. She deserves that. She was a wife. She was a mother. Bodies are temporary. Memories are forever. And even though I see her everywhere I look, I am not threatened. I am pleased. Look at what she has given me. Her ultimate sacrifice is my ultimate joy. It isn't possible for me to love the man, to love the boy, without loving the woman who gave them to me. Yes, she is gone. But she will never be forgotten.
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