21 August 2010

Surrounded by Love

Posted 21 August 2010 upon this website by K.S. Wood - please ask permission before reprinting!


The sky grew dark the day she died, but he never paid attention. All that mattered to him was that she would never walk the earth with him again. He stood by her deathbed, and continued to hold her hand long after all light had left her face.

He ignored the tears that poured down his cheeks, wetting the days-old stubble that grew like a bush on his face. His love was gone and nothing would bring her back.

He knew she was dying months ago. Sydney hadn’t been feeling well for a month, and kept attributing it to anything she could think of to placate her husband, coworkers, and family. She hated going to the doctor, and he knew it. In the end though, he forced her to go. He just wished he had insisted she go sooner, for perhaps they could have caught it in time. She had cancer.

A month later, Aaron was saying his goodbyes, and fearing the days he would soon have without her. She was his rock, his strength, and the mother of his three daughters. He loathed the thought of them growing up motherless, especially his eldest, for she had already lost one mother before she even got a chance to know her. Now she was losing the only mother she had ever known. The baby, his youngest child, wouldn’t even know her mother.

He sat on the side of his bed in the dark, unable to sleep that night. It was the first time he dared to enter his bedroom, the room he so lovingly shared with her. He didn’t know if he could stand it. She had been buried a week ago, and the hustle and bustle of all the funeral preparations and family coming and going had died down.

He felt deflated, exhausted, and sorrowful. He stared into the darkness, a sob throbbing in his chest. It grew in intensity until he could no longer stand the pain. He put his head in his hands and wept as quietly as he could. His three girls slept in their beds down the hall. He did not wish to wake them.

Jan and Lily didn’t even realize their mother was gone, for they were still too young to comprehend what death was. They kept asking for her when they were awake, and he no longer had the heart nor the energy to continue telling them she wasn’t coming home. He didn’t want them worrying about why their daddy was crying.

His concern was for Silas. He didn’t want to wake her up, for his eldest was exhausted from staying up at night with her sisters as they cried for their mommy. At nine, she was given a burden that was too old for her young shoulders, but she took it on.

But she wasn’t alone. The girls’ aunts and grandmother, Sydney’s family, helped out during the day. They were constantly taking the girls to the store, the park, the ice cream shop, all the places their mother usually took them on her days off from work. Aaron’s step-brother Mick and his family had flown in from California to help with all of the funeral arrangements and for moral support and had spirited the children away to the local amusement park for a day to give Aaron a chance to relax, not that he did. He couldn't relax. Not without her.

Aaron’s sobs grew louder, and he threw his face into the pillows, trying to muffle them. But the dam that had held the sobs for the past two weeks had broken, and nothing was going to stop the anguish in his voice.

Jan was the first one to come to his room. The three-year-old, with her mother’s big brown eyes, held a teddy bear in her arms and rubbed her eyes. She pushed the door open and stood there.

“Daddy?” her innocent voice called out in the dark. “Daddy, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

She ran to the bed and put her teddy on it. Using a drawer of Sydney’s nightstand, she hoisted herself up onto the high mattress and crawled to her father’s side. She put her head on his shoulder and patted his arm with her hand, like her mother had done to her.

“It’s okay, Daddy. You don’t have to cry.”

Silas came next, with the baby in her arms. Lily had awakened to the noise from her father’s room and cried for her mommy again, waking her sister. Silas heard her father’s sobs and gathered her sister, hurrying to her father’s room. She put the baby on the bed next to Jan and hastened around the bed to the sobbing form of her father. She threw her arms around him.

“Daddy!” she cried, tears coming to her own eyes as she listened to the torment that poured from his soul. He rolled on to his back and looked at the three of them, finally aware that his daughters had come to him. He pulled Lily to his chest, hugged Jan with one arm and with the other arm he pulled Silas to his side, hugging her tightly until his sobs lessened.

When his sobs had turned to mere sighs and the tears were slowed to trickles, he kissed each of his daughters.

“I love you all,” he whispered, his voice cracking with emotion as he reached over to turn on the lamp next to the bed.

“Does this mean you’re done crying?” Jan asked, her thumb slipping back into her mouth as soon as she finished the question. She leaned against the pillows, her eyes droopy with drowsiness. Lily was nestled between her and their father, already fast asleep.

Aaron sighed and smiled slightly as he stroked his daughter’s head. “Yes, for tonight I am done crying, my little princess.”

“You miss Mommy, don’t you?” she asked.

He closed his eyes as a tardy tear slid down his cheek and nodded, swallowing a sob. “Yeah I do.”

“She’s in heaven, you know. Uncle Mick and Grandpa told me that.”

He smiled. “Yes she is.” He pulled the bedspread up to her chin with his right hand, being careful not to wake Lily.

Jan smiled as she snuggled under the covers, hugging her teddy tight. She yawned and closed her eyes, and was asleep a minute later.

Silas leaned against her father on his left side, her head on his chest and one arm draped across his waist. He hugged her securely with his left arm and looked down at his eldest with a smile.

Like her sisters, her eyes drooped with fatigue. Unlike her sisters, she tried to fight it. She wanted to make sure he was going to be all right before she went off to sleep.

He kissed her forehead. “Go to sleep, little one,” he whispered.

She smiled as she snuggled closer, and closed her eyes.

“I love you, Daddy,” she whispered as she yawned.

“I love you too. Good night,” Aaron replied, reaching over his daughter to turn off the light. He closed his eyes and smiled as he felt his daughters’ love surround him. The pain and loneliness was melted, though it wasn’t entirely gone. It wouldn’t completely leave, but he could learn to deal with the slight ache. He could survive, and it was all because he was loved.

He fell asleep with a smile on his face.

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