I wrote a little flash fiction for you today. It’s personal, about what I imagine it will be like when I meet my son again. He passed away six months ago at the age of thirteen. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time imagining that moment when we see each other again. Because, like many, many humans, I use that belief that we will be reunited in some form of afterlife to get me through the grief, the rest of this life that will be spent without him.
Eventually, I came up with the below scenario, and I kept playing it over in my mind. Finally, I decided to write it down, and now I’m sharing it with you. I like reading it; it makes me smile. Hopefully, it will give you a smile, too.
“Brady.” I gasp. “You look so grown up. So handsome.” Exactly as I’d imagined he would have turned out, had he lived.
“And you’re beautiful,” he replies.
I scoff. “I’m an old woman.”
“Not here.” He nods at something behind me.
I glance over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of an attractive twenty-something woman in a mirror. Lifting my gaze, I stare into familiar blue-green eyes, although they are no longer surrounded by wrinkles.
“I remember being twenty-five. It was a good year. The year I met your father.”
“He’s here, too,” Brady says. “He’ll be along shortly. He figured you’d want a few minutes alone with me, since it’s been so long.”
I expect my heart to ache, tears to well in my eyes, to spill onto my cheeks, but it isn’t happening. I don’t feel sad at all. I feel buoyant, happy… peaceful. And thrilled to see my son again. I lost him so very long ago.
“How… how have you been?” I ask. I know what I really want to ask, but I am hesitant.
“Good. It’s nice here. You’ll like it. It’s exactly what you want it to be.”
With my son. And my husband, who preceded me here. I’m sure there are other wants I’ll feel, but for the moment, all I want is the two of them.
“Is that why everything’s white, and there isn’t any scenery or background?” I ask. “Because right now, all I can think about is seeing you and your dad again?”
“I think so. Partially. It takes a bit to acclimate, to realize you’re here and you’re never going back. Once you do, different things will come into focus. I spend a lot of time sitting around the fire with Dad and Grandpa and a few relatives I didn’t meet until I got here. Great-Grandpa J. is pretty cool. He and I play a lot of euchre.”
“I haven’t seen Grandpa J. since I was fifteen. He taught me to play euchre.” Again, I expect sadness over the idea of having lost so many years with him, but all I feel is joy. I think I could get used to this.
A colorful firework explodes over our heads. Brady laughs. “That’s Grandpa Pat, I bet. The first thing he wanted to do when he got here was light off a bunch of fireworks with me.”
I smile. “I bet he did.” Independence Day celebrations hadn’t been the same since Brady died, all those years ago.
I sober, although I still feel no negative emotion, which is kind of nice, actually. The sadness and grief has permeated my life for so many years. “Will you… will you tell me why?”
His smile holds a brief moment of sadness, I think, but maybe I’m imagining it because he looks really happy.
“Does it matter now? We’re together again. And everything we do together, it’ll always be happy and good. There’s no bad karma here or bad emotions or whatever. It’s just peaceful and… good. Positive.”
“Even though you were alone here for all these years?”
“I wasn’t alone. Grandpa and Grandma J. greeted me when I arrived. Then Grandpa Z. and Grandma and Grandpa B. Oh, and Major. That was pretty cool, to see my dog again. He doesn’t have arthritis anymore, and he isn’t senile. He runs around with Kaya all day long now. They’re like best friends, even though they never met in that world. I guess it’s because they were both my dogs.” He shrugs.
“Your sister is going to be so relieved when she gets here.” I miss her, but it isn’t a painful ache, which is strange. I’m comforted by the knowledge that she has her husband and her kids to lean on. And his family. Somehow, I know they’ll sit around the table at the next holiday gathering and crack jokes and share memories of their time with me and my husband, maybe even with Brady, for the brief time he spent in their world.
“Yeah. I’m looking forward to seeing her, although we still have a long while yet. She’s doing well. I like the guy she chose to marry. Her oldest son is a lot like me.”
The closest thing to a negative emotion washes over me. “How much like you? I don’t want her to go through that again. It isn’t fair.”
“She won’t. He’s not that much like me. Just the smart-alec personality and the love of fireworks.”
Relieved, I say, “And his smarts. He’s way too smart for his own good. But using those smarts to try to cure cancer. He’s made a lot of advances, too.”
“I’m proud of my nephew, even if I’ve never met him.”
“I’m proud of you. Always was. I wish I had said it more often when you were alive.”
“You did. A lot. It wasn’t your fault I did what I did.”
The happiness I feel increases a notch. I spent a lot of time in that other world trying to convince myself it wasn’t my fault, out of necessity, in order to go on living, but it still feels good to hear him say it. My son.
“I’m sorry it happened,” he says. “I’m sorry you had to figure out how to keep on living without me. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d realized how it would affect everyone.”
“You don’t feel guilty, do you? I hate the idea of you sitting up here all these years, feeling guilty for changing our lives.”
He shakes his head. “It doesn’t work that way up here. There are no negative emotions. It’s calm and peaceful all the time. It really is a lot like what everyone thinks it is here. I didn’t like watching you all suffer, but at the same time, I knew everything would be okay, and eventually, we would be together again. You don’t feel regret up here.”
“You got to watch us go through life? Will I get to watch Reagan, the grandkids?”
“Yep. After a little while. Once you’re acclimated. Doesn’t look like it’ll take too long for you.”
He again nods at something behind me. When I turn, I see a fire pit surrounded by camp chairs coming into focus. The fire pit is on a beach, and waves from a crystal clear, blue lake gently lap at the sand nearby. Figures materialize, sitting in the chairs, beverages in hand. One chair is empty, with a glass of wine perched on the arm. I laugh at the idea that we will still have our drinks in this place.
I see my in-laws, my mom, dad, stepdad. I wave and my dad smiles and starts to rise from his seat, but then hesitates when the man seated next to him stands. My husband. He looks like he did on our wedding day, although he’s wearing casual clothes instead of a tuxedo. With a wide grin on his face, he starts toward us, arms spread, clearly intent upon embracing us. Both of us.
We’re together again. And we’re at peace.