I could see the empty bench up ahead. It had been two full seasons since I had last come here. It was a beautiful late spring day and the trees came alive with the symphony of song birds. I could hear the sorrowful cooing of a mourning dove … so fitting as I fought back tears. It took much courage to come here today and as I got closer, I wanted to turn and run.
It was an early fall day and Dad was going to take Mandy to his favorite spot to feed the birds and squirrels. The leaves were turning and everywhere you looked a burst of reds, golds, oranges, even purples took your breath away. The air smelled clean and the sun was bright in an autumn sky with the promise of a mild day. As I put the napkins into the picnic basket, I felt envious of Dad and Mandy spending a few hours in their favorite nature spot. I loved that spot too. It was supposed to be my day off but as luck would have it, something came up and I needed to get to the office for a few hours. Mandy slipped into her sweater and called to her grandpa to hurry and her excitement echoed in her voice. Dad brushed my cheek with a kiss goodbye, clutched the picnic basket and the food for their furred and feather friends, and called over his shoulder, “today I love you—but tomorrow I will love you more.” As they were going out the door I called “love you both today—but tomorrow I will love you more, bye, have fun!”
That day is deeply etched in both my mind and my heart. My mind replays that days events as though it happened just moments ago. I sat heavily on the bench and my limbs were shaking but not because I was cold. I looked over at the foot bridge and pictured dad and Mandy excitedly telling each other what they saw. I could hear the sweet giggles coming from a beautiful, happy child. My child. I could hear dad’s strong masculine voice saying to look here or look there as he would point out wild life for Mandy to see.
There at my feet, doves, sparrows, wrens, blue jays, blackbirds began to gather. I was amazed that they still remembered. I had brought a small sack of birdseed, just in case, and as the tears streamed down my face I began to feed Dad and Mandy’s little friends. I looked over at the footbridge and it looked exactly as it had always looked. No sign of the horrors it could tell if only it could speak.
A bank robbery had taken place that day. Just shortly after Dad and Mandy had arrived to visit and feed their friends, they had gone up on the footbridge to see if there were any water fowl. The get-away car sped through the park that terrible day and attempted to cross the footbridge. Both Dad and Mandy were struck by the speeding vehicle and hurled to their deaths in the tall grass and stream below.
A rabbit, most likely a momma, hesitantly approached me with five tiny youngsters in tow. I was both consumed in grief and a kind of comfort that one might feel with a warm hug from a loved one. Even with eyes blurred by cascading tears, It wasn’t hard to see why we, mostly Dad and Mandy, loved this place. It had everything to lift ones heart and rejoice . There was something Godly about this beautiful spot. A place to come in both happiness and sorrow. Something happened to me that day. I can’t explain it other then I felt as though something, perhaps a spirit, entered my body. A wonderful warmth, comforting and consuming, spread over my entire body. I felt as though I was being embraced in the most loving of ways. I felt as though the open wounds and scars on my heart were being gently mended. I could hear a musical instrument in the background playing the sweetest song, yet I had no knowledge of either the instrument or the song it was playing. I vividly saw both Mandy and Dad waving and smiling to me from the foot bridge … and I waved back.
That was three years ago. I don’t know what happened to me that day except to say I experienced some kind of spiritual healing. I am no longer tortured. Yes I grieve, and I will never stop missing my daughter or my father, nor will my love for them ever ebb. But the grief I feel is like the loneliness that one might feel when a loved one is briefly absent from your life, and soon to return.
This story is fictitious. I hope you enjoyed.