Rule number five: Don’t forget you have a home.
There was a place where I had been wanting to go more than anywhere else; more than the northern mountains or the tallest building of the city. It was mid January and I had been painting nonstop for the past couple of months. That night, the air was colder, a reminder of the winter, and even though it didn’t snow in the western valley, the grass was covered with frost and a few drops of water had been frozen before they could let go on the branches of the trees. A few Christmas wreaths made of fragrant pine dyed slowly, while resting on the tombstones. The bouquets of flowers were frosted as well, and left on the ground to follow the people they were meant for. This time I was completely alone.
After two years of avoiding the painful reminder, I finally felt strong enough to visit her. I could sense the trace of soul that people left on their bodies once they weren’t needed anymore. It is easier to recognize spirit when you are nothing more than that. And one of the many fragments of soul I could feel was my mother’s. I didn’t need to rely on my sense of sight to find her grave because she guided me there. I read her name carved on stone just above the date when my everything turned into nothing. And I could feel her even though she wasn’t there. I didn’t expect her to be but her memory was floating around the place, almost palpable and I could even smell her and hear her voice although none of that was real. Not even as real as a dream. It was just the connection between the two closest things there are to a ghost: an eternal trace of soul and a temporary fleshless life.
I cried without tears. The first time I would have let myself cry and I didn’t even have a way to do it. I didn’t cry when I heard she was at the hospital or when I heard she didn’t make it. I couldn’t cry because crying would have made it real, and I didn’t want it to be real. Unfortunately, it was and I knew it then. She was gone.
It was in that moment when I realized that I could not keep avoiding reality forever. It was then, with the nude branches of the trees bending towards me, heedfully watching me change like they had, that I was ready to cry. And I was also ready to live, because I could feel her. She wasn’t there but she left a print, on the empty shell that was her body and on me. She was somehow alive because a soul does not just disappear. I didn’t believe she could come back but it hit me in that moment, that I was soul and so was she. I was there and even though she physically wasn’t, I knew she was somewhere, and that somehow we would meet again. But most importantly, I still had time. I missed my mother so much and I wasn’t planning on denying it anymore but I was alive and she was not, I had come to terms with that. I could do things. I could paint beautiful things and talk to beautiful people. I could tell dad I needed him and go with him to beautiful places because we still had time. And I think mom would have liked that.
The trees around me had changed and so had the bodies under my feet and so had I, but the trees would blossom again after the winter and the people would someday reunite with the ones they loved and I still had a lifetime to keep changing.
I stood there the whole night, hearing the wind sing a song for those forgotten and those who were still mourned. The trees would help to that music, scratching the air with their wooden fingers, creating a melody too faint for anyone to hear but strong enough to crash against the bones of those who had; and those who didn’t, we just felt it.
With the first ray of sunlight the music stopped, the icy raindrops began to melt and I left. As a shadow I could not exist under the light of daytime and among all the things I understood that night I realized that I hated it: not existing, not fully existing.
I didn’t go back again, not by myself, not at night. I didn’t go downtown either or to the mountains to see the northern lights. I decided that I would have enough time for that when I was as free as mom was, but for now I had to do what I could with the time I had as a person with both a mind and a body. My life didn’t drastically change that night, but my view on it did. Over the next months I painted and I improved so much, I met new people and went on trips and later fell in love, and I told dad about it, and we talked about girls, and about his work and my school and every Sunday we would go fishing. I saw the trees change from green to orange and from being bare to a display of red and purple flowers. I laughed and cried again and I lived and had some bad days but it was okay because that is life. And I loved being alive.