by Robert J. Zuti-Lewis
Chapter 1: Mourning
“I am sorry for your loss.” The gentleman bowed his head in respect.
Ken looked up at the old man. The scent of cigars and peppermints circled around him. Ken glanced and nodded looking away.
“Oh honey, meet one of your mom’s old boyfriends. He came to pay his respects.” Sophia put her arm around him and patted his side. She turned her head toward the old man. “It’s good to see you Thomas. I haven’t seen you for a long time.”
“Faye was a good woman.”
Ken looked up again. He remembered something his mother said to him a long time ago.
“Who is my dad?”
Faye stopped cutting her vegetables. She looked deep into her son’s eyes. “Your father broke my heart a long time ago. Although I forgave him, I told him I didn’t want him in my life or yours. I think it’s better this way.” She said wiping a tear from her eye.
“I’m sorry mom. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“It is all right, dear. I don’t like talking about it. Now go clean up, dinner’s almost ready.”
“You dated my mom?” Ken asked looking back at Thomas.
“Yes. Unfortunately for me, she let me go.” He nodded his head in and hobbled toward the exit.
“Is that…?” Ken stuttered trying to make out the words.
“I am not sure, honey. Your mom never told me who he was.” Sophia pondered for a moment. “I don’t think he is. The time wasn’t right. There was another man after him.”
“I miss her.” Ken exhaled.
Sophia was his mother’s best friend. They grew up together in Cleveland and moved to Washington state when they were teenagers. Sophia was like an aunt to him.
“I wish I knew my father.” Ken whispered under his breath.
“Why is it important to you?”
“I have no other family. I was young when Grandma died. It was just mom and I.” Ken paused a moment taking another breath “I am alone.”
Sophia hugged him without a word. His pain coursed through his soul making him shiver. How will I move on? What am I going to do?
“Many people from the church stopped to pay their respects.”
“Yea.” Ken rolled his eyes. “I am sure they will miss her money!”
“Oh behave! Your mother loved the church and the people in it.”
“Remember when I volunteered there?”
“I remember. You liked it as I recollect.”
“Well, I saw the books.” Ken paused. “She gave the same amount each week, but the books showed she gave less.”
“What are you trying to say dear?”
“The pastor bought a new Lexus last year, paid in full. There is no way he could buy that on his salary.”
“You shouldn’t concern yourself with such matters.” Sophia patted his leg.
Ken stood up and walked to the casket where his mother laid. He knelt and prayed with anguished thoughts of what happened and what he could have done to prevent her death. It was not his fault. Succumbing to his pain, there was only one he could accuse.
“How dare you God! How dare you take my mother away from me!” He whispered under his breath. “I curse your name! You left me alone with no one, and I will no longer pray to you!”
Ken stood up turning around. His mother’s pastor faced him.
“You are not alone son.”
Ken looked at him squinting his eyes. He wanted to tell him off, or at least give him the finger. Not in front of mom.
“I am not your son, but I am sure you will miss her contributions to your church.” Ken gritted his teeth.
“If you need me, I will be there.” The pastor nodded and knelt at the casket.
Thoughts of what he wanted to say permeated his mind. The entangled rage at what he imagined was expressed as a sarcastic smile.
The pastor turned and patted his back. Don’t fucking touch me!
Ken moved past the crowd looking for a spot to be alone. He observed everyone was doing the same thing. A place full of mourners that avoided each other.
Ken turned to signal the undertaker. He was a tall thin man who dawdled with a half-smile.
“Mr. Murray! How may I be of help?”
“How much longer?”
“About five minutes’ sir.”
Ken walked over to the podium preparing what he would say. The words he wrote would never do his mother’s memory justice in his mind. He paused as the staff gathered everyone to their seats.
With a deep breath, he looked out at everyone with tears in his eyes. “My mother was all known to you as someone who always had an open house. She always had a meal ready for a stranger and treated everyone like family. Mom was the only one in my life that could make me smile and laugh. I liked who I was around her.”
Ken stopped for a moment to catch his breath. He looked over at her corpse with a despondent expression.
“I will miss her more than any of you.” He finally said in a small voice.
Ken sat down and Sophia rubbed his back as the pastor spoke. Ken stared at the casket as the pastor used his time to win people for Jesus.
Ken glared at him while he talked purposely looking at the time trying to tell him to hurry up. He could tell he made the pastor uncomfortable.
After the sermon, a few people came up to speak. Ken listened to stories of her generosity and love for her friends. He was impressed with Sophia’s testimony of her. Everyone could tell she really cared for her like a sister.
The ride to the cemetery was despairing. It was a cool cloudy day with mists of rain that sent shivers down his spine. Distant sounds of thunder echoed through the clouds while his mind wandered in his memories.
No memorials, she was just laid to rest. This is what she wanted. Ken just stood there like a statue while everyone left one at a time.
“Why did you leave?” Ken whispered.
“I have something here I want to show you.” She knelt opening a book on the coffee table. “If anything happens to me I want you to make sure you are alright.”
“Nothing will ever happen to you mom!”
“We all must live and die.” She continued. “These are collections of letters from your grandmother. She used to write me all the time. It was her way of making sure I remembered all the lessons she wanted me to learn as I grew older. She was an amazing woman, and I want you to make sure you remember these just in case something happens to me.”
“I will mom! I love you!” Ken hugged her neck and kissed her cheek.
His heart ached as the pain cut through his heart like a dull knife. Falling to his knees he cried, wishing it was all a bad dream.
“Excuse me, sir?” A middle-aged woman stepped up behind Ken.
“I just wanted to express my sympathies for your loss.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Barbara. I was your mother’s nurse before she passed away.” Her words made him blink out of his trance. Why is she here? What does she want?
“Thank you.” Go away!
“Your mother wanted to fight the cancer, but she told me that it was her time.” She stumbled over her words. “She wanted me to give you this.”
Ken looked at the package in her hand. It was carefully wrapped small box adorned with red lace ribbon. Ken carefully took the box and opened it.
Inside of the box was a card addressed to him. Underneath the card laid assorted items she kept in her purse.
“She told me you would need this, and I agreed to make sure you received it. Be well.” She said and walked away.
The card inside was a valentine’s day card. The outside of the card read, “To my loving son.”
Ken wiped away his tears as he took the card out of the envelope.
On this valentine’s day, I just wanted you to understand. You mean more to me than life itself. My life was worth living with you in it, but now I must say goodbye to you in this body. I pray that you will always have joy, love, and peace with whatever you choose to do. I know deep in my heart that you will be the man I recognize you to be.
Kenneth, you are a quiet man, afraid to take chances and step out into the world. I want you to step out! Be free! You have more ability inside of yourself than you realize. Take life by the reigns and live like it is your last day, every day.
Take a chance on love! Remember, I am with you always, and I will never ever stop loving you. With all that you do in this life, the greatest gift you can give me is your love. Love me where you are, and push forward. Never give up!
I love you son, with all my heart and soul!
“You’re a day late.” Ken whispered to her casket. He looked around and detected he was the only one there. He exhaled and gritted his teeth. “You should still be here!” He whispered.
Suddenly, from the sky, the clouds parted just enough to let the afternoon sun shine down near him.
He looked up and cried.
“Stay with me mom, I am not sure if I can do this,” he said standing to his feet “but I will try.”