I’ve been dreading this day ever since you left. Visiting St Symphorien seemed at the time a very fitting and honourable journey to make. But that was then, when life was whole, instead of being torn to shreds and scattered amongst the wilting poppies. I shouldn’t have come, your parents would have understood, but our son, perhaps not. 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 play in the grass at my feet and I kick my sandals off, letting the feathery blades slip between my toes. I close my eyes, the ribbons of sun push their way through the canopy poking me with a fiery warmth, challenging me to respond. But inside I’m cold, ice-cold. A stone where my heart once loved so fiercely; flames of anger for leaving me rise in my throat. How could you! The tears are long gone, for I always knew that you were not mine for the keeping. That one day I would sit and mourn you.
We wanted him, our son, to remember. To show him the travesties of war. To show him the hope of peace. To show him that together we are strong. I stand up to shake the images of you from inside my head and 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 can hear my son’s tight, bright voice cracking through the silence. Asking questions of your father, who finds it difficult to provide the answers. 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 the rainbow of wild flowers. 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 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 mine possessively. ‘Cuddles, mummy,’ he whispers.
‘Hush now, we don’t want to wake them.’ I scoop him up, his legs wrapping around my waist, his head burying into my neck, and I plead with the angels too.