No Going Back

by T.K.Mancia © 2002

"Ashes to ashes…"

The priest's voice comes to me on this warm spring day when not a breath of wind stirs amongst the leaves of the ancient elm. From my perch upon the old wooden swing, hung by hands long since dead I watch the gathering.

"Dust to dust.."

A pastel sky hangs overhead and spring blossoms push forth to powder the wild apple trees in a froth of pink and white. Along the side of the old sandstone church a gathering of jonquils and wild rose perfume the air with their heady scent. Oblivious to this beauty of new life the mourners stand in a sombre circle while sorrow rains in their hearts and tears well in their eyes.

Slowly, I swing back and forth, watching and waiting, it's almost time.

There is one woman dressed in black dabbing at her eyes. Who is she? Wife? Mother? Sister? Lover? She conjures memories of my mother and with them comes a terrible, cutting sadness. I push the thoughts away. I don't want to think of she who was lost to me a long time ago, on a sun shiny day, much like this.

My gaze moves back to the coffin being slowly lowered into the earth's waiting maw. Soon now.


Over the flower bedecked casket the priest sprinkles holy water and I lean forward expectantly. "….and to the Lord may your immortal soul return."

A zillion tiny shining stars, brighter than any light, too bright to be seen by those who stand in a cluster around the grave, rise from the cold dark earth to dance and twirl giddily in the bright clear air. I wait for the most beautiful feeling I have ever known to bathe me in purest love.

But the feeling doesn't come.

Instead the dancing beams of light pull together to form the shape of a boy.

In anger and disappointment, I watch, feeling cheated, as he floats above his grave gazing down at the mourners below. Slowly he drifts down to the dark haired woman, lays a kiss upon her cheek, she touches the place gently and I see her smile a small sad smile.

He becomes aware of my presence then and in the blink of an eye is beside me. We do not speak, we cannot. There are no words for us, but together we watch as the gathering begins to drift away.

She is the last to leave. I know now that this is his mother. He goes to her, but she looks through him back to the grave. "Goodbye son," I hear her whisper. "I love you." She turns and walks to those waiting ahead. He tries to stop her, clutching at her with hands that have no substance. There is nothing he can do, but watch her go on to a life without him.

The boy would cry, but cannot, for this Godless despair knows no release. Again he is by my side. I know without seeing his bandaged wrists why he is here. The same as he, without seeing my blackened neck, knows why I am.

We all know.

After it's too late

It is better for him though, protected from the unseen evils that haunt this earth. I am not so lucky, but I am not alone, there are others like me, buried outside the protective walls of the cemetery proper. A small group of decrepit moss grown tombstones, overgrown with weeds and wildflowers to mark our final resting place. Lost souls come together beneath the shade of a twisted elm, a legacy from a time when suicides were considered unworthy of burial in consecrated ground.

Those other souls are hidden now, desiring not to sample that fleeting taste of heaven which makes the starvation of their souls so much more intense. I am different. I find the beauty worth the anguish which will follow.

I begin again to sway slowly back and forth, and we watch as two workmen in dirty overalls shovel soil onto the new grave. Their work finished, they wipe sweaty brows, gather together their tools and make their way toward us. One nudges the other, pointing to the swaying swing upon which I sit.

"Ghosts," he says and they both laugh.

x x x

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