I’ve been dreading this day since you left. Visiting the memorial seemed an honourable journey to make. When life was whole instead of being torn to shreds and scattered amongst the wilting poppies. A father, a father’s father, and some that will never be. A war to end all wars goes on and on, whilst life struggles to exist.
The shadows from the trees dance around my feet and I kick my sandals off, letting the feathery blades of grass slip between my toes. I close my eyes, ribbons of sun push their way through, poking me with a fiery warmth, challenging me to respond. Inside I’m cold, ice-cold. A stone where my heart once loved so fiercely; flames of anger rise in my throat. How could you! I always knew you were not mine for the keeping. That one day I would sit and mourn you.
We wanted our son to remember. To show him the travesties of war. To show him the hope of peace. Together we are strong. I stand up, determined to force the hatred from my soul for the one who took you. Grief has no boundaries, no race, nor colour. Grief is something we all share, but I want mine. For me. For my son.
I hear his tight, bright voice cracking through the silence. Asking questions of your father. Answers that cannot be found or understood. I walk along a line of white headstones, as straight as a line of soldiers, forever on guard, forever united in death. Protected by the woodland, marked by a rainbow of wildflowers. A garden of peace, a garden of regeneration, a garden of forgiveness.
He cries for you every night. And he tells the angels he will be good, always good, if only they would give you back. I cannot forgive, I cannot find peace, I cannot regenerate. I wish I could.
A small hand slips into mine, chubby fingers curl around possessively. ‘Cuddles, Mummy,’ he whispers.
‘Shush, we don’t want to wake them.’ I scoop him up, his legs wrapped tight around my waist, his head buried in the crook of my neck, and I plead with the angels too.