The passage of time, it is said, heals all wounds. Given time, the most terrible of losses, and the pain that comes with such things, will ebb away until it cannot do so much harm. Time has a way of building up walls around the pain, boxing it in.
But not all of the pain becomes trapped by time. There are, without doubt, moments in which pain flares back into being, to assault the soul, to drive the hurt, the loss, and, yes, the guilt, back to the fore. Pain, in whatever form it takes, does take a small measure before it leaves.
On this day, time hadn’t managed to start building that box or containing that pain. At this moment, the pain was there, clearly seen, and could not be ignored. It pushed at the souls nearby, taking the measure of them all.
But there was a means to push back.
The dawn in the Realm came with a break in the rains that had been falling for so long. The clouds were still there, the skies were not completely blue. The calls had been made, as they needed to be. With small messages, little notes, and the occasional hand-delivered notice, the news had traveled quickly. Really there wasn’t a need to explain, but they had nonetheless.
The card read: “The King of the Realm, along with her Majesty, the Queen, request a moment of reflection for the loss of His Majesty’s most beloved mother. A small memorial service will be held.”
Keith looked at the notice once more, held in his hand. Two short sentences that couldn’t manage to express what he was feeling at that moment. The thin white card didn’t have to say anything more, the words stated what had happened, what they intended to do.
She would have liked things that way. He recalled how she never wanted anything elaborate done, how she was more concerned about others, about not causing them all complications in their lives. She didn’t care for the idea of being put on a pedestal, even if he, as her son, did so regardless. He slipped deeper into his memory.
When she had passed, the Realm’s etiquette director had come to him, offering her services. She brought in vast plans of how to honour her: talk of dragons soaring overhead, a vast processional of dignitaries, officials—and, of course, eventually, well-wishers. Descriptions of urns of gold, silver, or other immensely valuable materials were being bandied about. Then came the talk of statues, or some sort of memorial being built for her, to be placed somewhere in the Realm. On and on it went, the discussions becoming more and more elaborate as they did so.
At one point, Keith asked a simple question: “Is this what she would have wanted?” He was told that her wants would be respected, of course, but that, as well, there needed to be a certain level of accommodation for those that would need to pay their respects. After all—so it was explained—this wasn’t so much about her as it was about their Majesties.
Moments later Keith had left the discussion, adding a comment as he did: “No. It is about her.”
Tera found him standing by a window in the Palace, looking out at the light drizzle. She approached him, taking his hand in hers and twining their tails together.
“You know they mean well, don’t you?”
“Oh, I do.”
“Tell me what you are thinking.”
Keith was silent for a time, Tera not letting go and waiting. Then Keith explained: “I’m thinking that mom would be telling me off right now. That I know what she wants, not anyone else.”
Tera smiled: “Even me?”
Keith chuckled, something that Tera hadn’t heard in some time: “No, not you, little Miss Exception To The Rule.”
She kissed his cheek: “Just checking.”
He continued his thoughts: “Mom would have wanted a simple urn–red, of course. Flowers carved in white I think, all things considered, would be a nice pattern.”
Tera placed her head against his shoulder: “Yes, absolutely. That’s Mom. What else?”
“She’d want a simple memorial service: family, a few friends. I’d want your heart to be there. He’s family, he knows us, knows Mom.”
Lacing his fingers with hers, he pondered: “I think we’d hold it by the flower garden, over where the carnations and roses meet. She’d like that, she did love her flowers.”
“That she did. Many of those flowers are from her garden, after all.”
He made a non-committal sound, gathering his thoughts.
Tera mused: “I’d like to say … something.”
“We both would.”
“What would you want to talk about?”
“Mom’s love for us, more than anything. Oh, there would be more, without doubt. I don’t want to read from a piece of paper, though. I know what I want to say, sort of. I think I can manage to do so without losing myself.”
Touching his cheek, Tera guided her Eternal to look into her so-green eyes: “You will be fine.”
He nodded: “Hope so.”
“Know so. Anything else?”
“Just some time afterwards to talk about her. Knowing you, that will be over tea and cookies and …” Noting a bit of movement out of the corner of his eye, Keith caught sight of the etiquette director making notes in a vestibule nearby. A small smile tugged at his lips: “Your idea?”
Tera kissed that smile, then explained: “Sometimes you listen too much, my Eternal. Sometimes you have to say what’s on your mind to get things done …”
The memory faded away. Keith was once more looking at the card in his hand with the announcement.
The time had come.
There wasn’t a procession through the Realm, or a parade, or anything else. There was only Keith and Tera walking together from the Palace to the Gardens. Life in the Realm continued around them, but there was no question that everyone knew what was happening. Some nodded, others smiled. There were the occasional tears; sometimes a hand or tail would reach out to touch, then draw away. The souls around them offered their support, help, whatever needed to be was offered without a word.
Upon entering the Gardens, they found Her Majesty’s heart waiting for them, standing vigil. He smiled, stepped back slightly, and waited.
Resting in the midst of the roses and carnations was a small red urn trimmed in gold, white flowers carved into the red. The gold was not overpowering, more of an accent to the red and white. The light played over the surface, a shimmer of light tracing its way over the curves, along the carvings, and about its form. For a time, the two Eternals held hands and spoke quietly. They told stories, some with tears, some with joy. They spoke of the love shared, the promises made, the joy of having had the time they had been given with her.
When the words were all said, when the last story was told, a tear wiped away, a love told in all of the fullness that was given, they offered their hands to Tera’s heart.
He took their hands and spoke of the truths that he knew: of how she lived within them both; of how she would dwell with Goddess; of the promise that they would always hold her and that, someday, they would all be reunited.
A prayer was spoken, a hope expressed. Then the moment came to a close …
… but not the remembrance.
From all around, from near and far, they came: family; the lives that she had touched coming to join in this moment with them. Some carried picnic baskets, others carried tablecloths … all with a single purpose, a purpose that had been expressed in the note: to remember her.
The tears were replaced with laughter, stories being told of love and hope. The tea she loved was shared, those particular cookies she loved, as well. Life came to surround her, to bring to the fore all of the good she had done, the miracles she had made real.
When night fell, as it was want to do, the family embraced one another, made a promise, and then began to drift away, their own lives calling them once more. Tera and Keith moved to thank her heart for his kindness, but, rather than accepting the thanks, he guided them back to where her urn was.
Emphasis on … “was.” A glowing nimbus of light was in its place, a warm familiar glow of love they both knew well. Rising into the air, this light representing her spirit paused, shimmered, then arced away, vanishing into the starry skies above that peeked out from between the clouds.
The promise was kept. For always.
Keith had the last word this time: “Love you, Mom. See you soon.”