I was inspired by a video from Gossip Girl for this little story. I based the male character around Eoin Macken, whose father died of a brain tumor several years ago. Everything else is based off my experience with losing my Grampy. I also don’t know why I like making my characters married (Freudian thing, maybe?), but I do it anyway. Thoughts, likes, comments, whatever is much appreciated. I haven’t really edited it, so grammatical and/or spelling errors will be fixed as I reread it.
I found him sitting against the wall behind the church. He had his knees drawn up, and his head was resting atop them. I could see his back heaving, and hear his breaths huffing loudly in the dead silence. As I slowly approached, the minute amounts of snow that remained from a small storm just hours before crunching beneath my feet. He glanced my way, quickly turning his head back to his knees, hugging them like a beloved teddy bear. I crouched beside him, reaching out to rub his back reassuringly.
“What’s up?” I asked, cupping my hand on his shoulder.
“I just couldn’t face it,” he murmured. I continued to rub his back, not asking him to elaborate further. I let him decide if he wanted to continue talking.
“Being in there, hearing people speak about him—it just brought it all back. It was like reliving his illness, and watching him die all over again. It’s been five years, but it all felt so fresh in that moment.”
“I don’t deny it for a minute,” I replied.
“I couldn’t breathe in there, Jules. It was so suffocating: the sadness and pain. I had to escape. Do you blame me?”
A light laugh escaped me.
“I am not laughing about your sadness, love. Far from it, in fact. I don’t blame you; there is nothing to be blamed for. You lost your father five years ago; the loss is a great one. Your father is the one person from whom you learned many things. He was taken before the even larger moments in your life had occurred, and you’re left dangling from a rope with no one to help you. If anyone in there blames you or thinks you’re weak; they’re completely wrong. You’re strong. You faced this head-on, with all these feelings bubbling to the surface and hitting you like a tidal wave. It’s not an easy thing: losing someone you’re close to.”
“I don’t feel like I am dangling, Jules. I have other male figures in my life. Just not my father. Sometimes a man just needs his father for a spirit boost. For those moments when he’s undecided about something and needs an opinion.”
“You can always ask me,” I offer.
“You’re not a man, darling. There are male things that women cannot possibly understand, okay?”
I nod in agreement.
“My father believed I could do anything I set my mind to,” he smiled, sniffling from the cold air. “If I wanted to be Cú Chulainn, I could be. ‘There is nothing you can’t do, if you set your mind to it, Aidan.’ He taught me so much, you know? I still feel like there is this emptiness—like a piece of my heart has gone missing.”
“I understand, Aidan. When my Grampy died, there was this emptiness in my heart. Like a giant hole that ripped the instant I found out he’d died. I truly believed he was immortal, like he would never actually die. He was dying right in front of my very eyes, but I thought he’d live forever, that he wouldn’t leave me alone. The day of his funeral, I was in stunned silence. He had died. He had left me alone to fend in this world without his guidance or words of wisdom. No longer would I feel his warm embraces or the familiar stubbly kisses on my cheek. The world seemed bleaker now that he was gone. I felt his indomitable spirit the whole day, as if he was standing beside me. I felt his spirit in the wind, his voice in the funeral home. He was with me.”
“The day I delivered that eulogy, the world was so dark. I had spent the last few months watching him wither away, in and out of pain, accepting his fate, preparing for his last journey. Standing in a church, in front of all those people, delivering words that I would hope conveyed what he’d meant to me; it was unreal. I was in a fog, watching everything evolve around me, but not truly present in the moment. It was out of body, for sure.”
I just sat there next to him, continuing to caress his back, laying my head on his shoulder. We’d only been married a few months, and I didn’t know much other than that his father had died a few years before and that it was a palpable loss. I watched his face in the bitter February air, seeing his warm breath escaping into the coldness. Listening to him sniffle, whether it was due to the coldness outside or his grief was painful.
“Do you want to go inside? It’s cold out here, and the last thing you need is to be in the hospital with pneumonia. I will hold your hand, if you’d like,” I smiled.
“Don’t leave me alone in there, okay Baby Bear?”
“I will not leave your side, unless you tell me to,” I reply, rubbing his hand with mine.
“I don’t know if I can go back in there,” he breathed raggedly.
“Look at me, Aidan Murphy.” He looked in my eyes. “You’re a strong man. You are the only man who can convince me to marry you after only knowing you a few months. You have done so much with your life, things that would make your late father proud. You make me proud, and that’s all that matters. I am here for you, everyone in there is in the same position you’re in: they’re still grieving. It’s overwhelming, I know. Death and grief are a dizzying ride that you cannot stop. It slows after some time, but it never stops spinning. Does that make any sense? It’s ridiculously cold out here, and I think I am beginning to lose my mind.”
That made Aidan laugh, which made me smile. He’d been in dark spirits since we’d awoke that morning, so seeing him laugh changed the mood of the day, even if just a little bit.
“It makes enough sense,” he smiled, kissing my hand.
“Then shall we go?”
It was difficult for him, having all these people reminiscing about his father and his life. Sharing stories and tears about the profound loss of such a man. Aidan squeezed my hand when it became difficult to keep his composure, and I would place a reassuring hand on his arm to let him know I was with him. Aidan managed to make through another two hours before he decided it was too much, and went home. We spent the rest of the night sitting in the living room in front of the fireplace, talking quietly and holding each other. It was the first somber moment we’d had together, and it was truly a bonding experience.