Another heartbreaking story. Be grateful today.
I wake up with the sun, but there is no light. It is dark, cloudy. The air is damp as I try to lift myself slowly from the couch, sore and heavy. I look at the mantel, but my eyes don’t stay long there.
My eyes do not stay long.
Barnie, our Golden Retriever, is at my side and I reach for him before he goes to the tiny kitchen expecting his breakfast, knowing right where his bowl is, in the same place it is every year when we come here.
He looks around for Karen then too, and for our kids. He looks for them as often as I do.
But they are not here, at least not in the same place they are in every year when we come.
I try to get up. I try not to be so heavy and sore. I try to feed the dog and take a shower and get dressed and watch the news and go outside and I try to live.
But I can’t. I can’t live. I don’t want to.
What I want is to go where they are. I want to find my wife and my sons and I want to nestle in close to them like I always did on Sunday mornings in this place and in every place and I can’t bear that I will never do that again. I cannot bear it.
So I go to the mantel. I take the urns, all three. I wrap them in my arms and press my forehead to them and only then do I start to feel anything close to okay, to full, to whole and loved and alive.
I walk to the door, struggle to open it, struggle as much as I do with everything else, with every single thing since the day when my family did not come home.
I step outside and off the deck, begin walking to the path that leads to the lake. Barnie is following me and I am grateful to him. I love you Barnie I want to say. I love you. Thank you for staying by my side all of these days. You have done the best you could, boy. But it has just gotten too hard.
It has just gotten too hard and I can’t do it anymore Barnie.
I am at the lake now. I sit down on the dock and let my bare feet hang over the water that looks black this morning. It is black and still and cold and welcoming, the place where my family has always most loved to be, where they will now spend all of their days, where I will too.
I set them all down, the urns, all three. I take off their lids and set the lids beside them. I pick up the tallest one and hold it close to my face and breathe it in, breathe in our life and our love and all of this loss that I can no longer stand to suffer.
“I love you Karen,” I whisper.
Then I pour her into the lake and remember the way she would float in this very spot on a big yellow tube with her legs hanging over it and one of our boys snuggled in the middle with her, and I begin to sob. I cry so hard. I cry for the very first time since my mother came to my door and said that my family was gone.
My body is so ravaged with pain now that I can hardly get my hands securely around the first of the two smaller urns, those of my twin sons who skipped rocks here and pushed me into the lake while I pretended I didn’t see them coming, didn’t know their little hands were about to be at the backs of my legs. Sometimes I would pretend to see them at the last minute and scoop them up in their matching life vests and take them tumbling into the water with me and their laughter would fill us all to overflowing.
But now I am drained. Now there is nothing.
I pour their ashes into the lake with their mother then, and I watch all of them as they float there just like they always used to and I know that I have to join them. I have to.
I don’t know any other way.
My crying begins to subside and is replaced with a sudden calm as I start to remove my shirt, and the lake and the air and my heart are all so still. Everything is just so still and welcoming, until suddenly Barnie begins to bark wildly.
“It’s okay Buddy,” I try to tell him, as a numbness settles over me, sucks me into it’s heavy grasp, but within only seconds he has become frantic.
I hope to calm him so I tell him that it’s okay. It tell him that my sister Sara will be coming soon and that she will take care of him. I tell him that I love him and that I am so sorry.
In despair as deep as this lake we love, I tell him that I am so sorry, but that I just don’t know any other way.
I just don’t know.
And then I slip into the lake with my family.
Just as I hear our neighbor running across the yard yelling my name, I slip into the lake with my family.