Comfort in grief.

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(Excerpt of a letter from Ben Franklin to the widow of his brother John Feb. 1756)

“That bodies should be lent to us is a kind and benevolent act of God. When they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure – instead of an aid, become an encumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given – it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them.

Death is that way … Why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and know where to find him.”

Bear (Flash fiction)

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It was so long since Sam had let someone touch his heart it was all but frozen over. Yet, somewhere beneath the ice, warm currents of life still flowed, hidden, protected, waiting still for the thaw of spring.

It was a day as other days, riding the train home behind the newspaper, suit neatly fitting, briefcase at his side. He noticed the pretty woman as she came to sit opposite him, noted the ringless finger, but stopped at that. He hid behind the financial section, catching glimpses of her smile beaming at the toddler beside her.
Strangely it was “Bear” that made the introductions. Opportunity being literally dropped at his feet, he seized upon it without thinking. Their eyes met as he thrust the furry body into groping hands. Something passed in that instant. He glimpsed beneath the sunny exterior and saw pain. It was quickly covered, disguised by smiles. Yelling stopped, the youngster clutched the ruffled animal to his chest, eyes tumultuous.
“His daddy gave it to him,” she rushed to explain. “He’s very attached to it.” He noted a slight quiver in the lip. “He was killed in Afghanistan,” she whispered.
He couldn’t help but double check the finger. She noticed.
“We were to be married at Christmas,” she added defiantly. “He was an American officer. We met in transit. Things happened. He loved little Alex.” The eyes were tinged with sadness, underlying water showing clearly.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t meaning to pry.”
“I know. But we’re OK now, aren’t we Alex?” She hugged the petulant youngster to her. “At least I have Alex.”
“He’s a cute little guy.” Sam’s smile was repulsed. The child had eyes only for Bear. Sam had never been good with kids. He retreated behind his newspaper, but it was no good, the ice had cracked.
He glanced over the rim, noting the tears she brushed aside. He couldn’t help himself. Moving to sit next to her he put a tentative arm around her shoulder. She didn’t push him away; rather she lowered her head to his shoulder seeking to hide the tears. Possessively Alex scrambled onto her lap.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed, “I thought I was over it.”
“Some things in life we never quite get over,” he responded, a far off look in his eyes. “You’re coping remarkably well.”
“You think so? Even when I got your suit soggy?” a glimmer of a smile appeared, as sunshine through the rain.
“I think you’re a remarkably resilient woman, and a pretty one at that.” He kicked himself. Stupid idiot! Why had he added that? She merely laughed.
“Guess I need to be – baggage!” She nodded at Alex, but there was no hint of bitterness. “Love me love my Bear,” she joked.
“I don’t think that would be so hard to do.” Sam replied. They’d each found a way to protect themselves, but the sun of her shield was melting his ice at an alarming rate. He didn’t mind.
Reflected in the train window the young sergeant winked, misty eyed, at Bear. He no longer needed the link. With a sigh he let go. They’d be OK now.

A Strange Physician.

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(from September 2014)

Song Bird Songs

oak tree

Leaves rustled in the early morning breeze, the trees seemed to quiver at her approach as if in sympathy. She had to go, come to her special place, the place she felt the comfort of eons.
Sitting beneath the old oak that had sheltered her as a child she let go, face in hands, sobs rending the silent stillness. When she could no longer hold on to her smile, when she felt the pressure build to an unbearable pitch she came here.
John was slowly wasting away and there was nothing they could do to stop it. His giant frame that had once carried her across the threshold was now worn and shriveled like a deceased nut in its skeletal shell, skin stretched over bone in lurid relief, a travesty of her man.

She had to smile for him, had to go on loving till her heart tore in tiny…

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The Price of Peace

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from May 2014

Song Bird Songs

After_the_Battle

(Short story for the theme “Loss”)

 Dusk hung over the grim Northumbrian field, veiling, but not obliterating the sights that swam before Edwin’s eyes. Shield and banner, once glorious in their pomp, now lay in jumbled heaps amidst torn limbs and lifeless forms, contorted, muddy, and everywhere was the stain of blood. He leant on the shaft of his sword to steady himself, red streaking the fair hair and face in lurid patterns of death, his lean form panting hard. It was over. They had won! He was alive and relatively unscathed, but inside dwelt a sickening emptiness.

Senses reeling he staggered forward, blue eyes shot with scarlet, searching among the heaving bodies for what he could not find, the living body of his brother. He had seen him go down in the first charge, like a bird pinioned in flight, the bright eye shocked, unbelieving. Wulfric had thought…

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The Greatest Adventure! ( (Re blog from May 2014)

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grave

My heart is touched with sadness today. An old and precious friend has concluded his battle with cancer. As a fellow believer I rejoice is his present freedom from suffering, but feel a vacuum left by his passing, such men are rare.

He died as he lived with a peaceful heart surrounded by his family and mourned by friends without number the world over to whom he showed kindness, patience and a helping hand, (me included). Such a man needs no memorial stone to be remembered. I dedicate this next post to him through tears, but in joy that his free spirit is no longer confined to his bed.

  The Greatest Adventure! (A believer’s perspective)

Once all was clean and unsullied, fresh and new; mankind surveyed his domain. He walked childlike through creation, peeping through trailing vines, smelling the fragrance of the flowers and watching startled as birds took to the sky. Imagine the discoveries – of tastes, of textures, of rushing waterfalls and placid turquoise lakes, the mystery of the sunset, the glory of its rise…

Now it is jaded, much of the joy of discovery has ceased.

The world and creation are now mapped and cataloged, pictures flash on screen at the touch of a computer key, yet the heart of man still yearns for exploration, sometimes seeking it in perversity and corruption, but we have yet to begin to delve into the infinity of creation. Exploring one plain, the carnal, seeing from one viewpoint only, we’ve missed the infinite complexity of the universe. True science knows we see but the tip of the iceberg.

Death is a ticket to another dimension from which the view is very different, a startling realization of the infinite. At death one is freed from the restriction of the physical mindset so prevalent in this modern world. Casting off its former shackles, the spirit, that curious, exploring, creative element of man’s inner being, is finally free to explore infinite horizons of time and space. Free to come to God, at last casting off all confines of flesh, of time, of mortality.

No need to wait till we die, the door stands open, but to enter we must cast aside the glasses of conformity, surrender to the free wind of God’s spirit and let it awaken our senses in full, opening as a new bride to her lover, in trust, in expectancy of fulfillment. Then we’ll begin to comprehend the vastness of creation. Then we’d no longer fear death. The journey perhaps, but we would know the door, the portal to eternity.

“All men die, but only some truly live!” (Braveheart)

I’m glad my friend was one of them.

(Strange to re blog this now as I just heard another old friend has been hospitalized. This remarkable lady is also in the last stage of cancer. It brought forth an incredible sweetness in her and I know she is ready for the trip. It would be selfish of me to mourn yet I do feel sad that such precious souls cease to be among us.)

Finding the Way. (flash fiction)

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lost

Her calves ached from walking, perhaps this was far enough. Pleasant forest smells surrounded her. She sat silent for a moment, eyes closed, taking in sound and smell denied in her mad rush. Pain and turmoil quieted to the chorus of bird song, her burning face cooled by a gentle breeze. She’d wanted solitude and found it. Somewhere far behind a small red convertible was waiting at the side of the road. She’d trudged miles since then, blind unseeing miles.

Opening her eyes she took in the sunlight beaming through the trees, the shadows playing a pantomime of shades among the fallen leaves. She sighed wishing she never had to go back. Somewhere out there was her luxury apartment, spotlessly tidy, with all mod cons. somewhere … empty. She’d squandered her first thirty years in search of that apartment and matching red car. Now she cared for neither. The only person she’d ever really cared for was dead. She’d never taken time to form attachments in her sordid bid for success, but he’d always been there for her since her youngest memories, Uncle Tom.

Her own parents were rarely available, returning home exhausted by their constant struggle to put food on the table. It had been May, Tom’s wife who picked her up from school. Tom was a carpenter, he loved wood. She’d watch him in his workshop lovingly plaining and sanding. She stroked the rough wood of the log on which she sat as if in remembrance. He’d never been too busy to chat, to encourage, to love. Now he was gone like the drifting leaves at her feet.

He’d tried to talk with her of late but she’d been too busy to stop, to listen. Then suddenly he was gone. No texts, no messages, gone! Out here alone she could cry, among the trees, the wood…

*

The sun sloped low in the sky, she’d better head back, but there was no path! In her pain raked quest she’d taken no bearings. Quenching panic she reasoned. The sun would be her compass. She needed to head west to find the highway.                                                                          *

Shadows grew as darkness invaded her domain, without the sun she’d be lost. Like my life she thought dully Tom was my compass. She hated the idea of spending the night out here. Noises that had calmed and comforted alarmed. She glimpsed a shadow among the trees. What would someone be doing out here at night? Fear gripped, but it was too late, the shadow swung in her direction. Panic stricken she began to run.

“Stop lady!” a voice called out, “It’s just me, Pete. I’m the woodsman. Are you lost?” Heavy feet pounded towards her as she turned. The uniform was unmistakable.

“I’m sorry. I thought you were…”

“Some pervert! Yes, I know.” He pulled a torch from his belt shining it on his badge.

“So what are you doing out here on your own?”

“My uncle died. I miss him so much … I wanted to be alone … I…”

“Well you sure did that! You’re miles from the nearest road. Do you want me to help you get home?”

“Yes, I have a car on the highway, a red convertible.”

“I saw it, was wondering what it was doing there. Come on then I take you back, I have a jeep parked not too far away.”

“How did you come to become a woodsman?” she asked as they piled into the old jeep.

He laughed. “Used to work on Wall Street actually, but it got too much for me. I was turning into a nervous wreck!”

“I know what you mean exactly.” He paused turning the ignition.

“You came here to ease the pain?”

“Yes I … He was a carpenter, he loved wood.”

“So do I.”

Spring Comes! (Flash fiction)

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spring

Crocuses flaunted bright petaled heads in the early breeze, in the hospital garden and daffodils graced the glass vase adorning her sterile environment. Jane loved spring, but this year she couldn’t enjoy these divine bursts of colour. Her world had faded to charcoal, dust and ashes.

Rabid cells had vandalised her garden, the radiation only added to the havoc. She was dying. They didn’t tell her that, but she knew. Only her eyes were free to walk among the flowers. Her aging body no longer obeyed her commands. Death waited brooding in the shadows. It had already laid claim to Frank, her husband of forty years and long ago it had claimed a tiny life, almost claimed hers. She’d escaped that time, escaped but with a barren womb and tortured mind. Frank had so wonted a son, he’d striven hard to hide his disappointment, but she knew, always felt guilty. He would have made such a good father, had been a good father to so many boys, but never his own.

Frank had been a teacher as had she. They’d met long ago when she’d transferred into a new school and he’d taken her under his wing. Now he was gone, it was all gone… all but the daffodils and the cards surrounding them, a kind gesture from old colleges that remembered. Where were they all now she wondered, all the little faces she’d taught, laboured over. They’d flapped those little wings and flown off to new horizons leaving her alone, alone in a hospital bed…

Pain surged through her body; the meds. were wearing off again. Not to worry the nurse would be here soon. A pleasant girl, but busy, always too busy to sit and talk, to hold her hand as Frank would have done…

The pain killers kicked in bringing with them a feeling of overwhelming drowsiness and confusion. Was there was a boy sitting by her bed? She glimpsed him before falling asleep. Who could he be? Which of her pupils would care enough to come all this way? When she awoke he was still there. He reached to take her hand saying nothing. It was so comforting to lay there touching another human being, oh the comfort of that hand. God bless that boy.

“Who are you?” she whispered, surprised that it took so much strength to mouth the words. He held a finger to his lips, silencing her efforts.

“Don’t talk. It’s OK. I’m here for you. I won’t go away.” And he didn’t. As early morning turned to shades of purple and green, as her exhausted body found refuge in troubled dreams, he was always there, holding her hand, stroking her hair in his silent vigil.

Just before dawn when shadows spring back before the rising sun she summoned the strength to ask one more time.

“Who … are … you?”

He smiled, “you don’t know my name, but dad sent me.” Then she knew. Taking his hand she rose from her bed and stepped into springtime.

Exile. (Flash fiction)

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night waves
Waves crashed to the shore. She listened to their echoes through the surrounding mist, wishing she could follow them home. Around her bundles of cloth held together their remaining possessions. At least they were safe now, enveloped in a shroud of mist and water. Jamie’s oars slipped through the waves counting strokes that took her from all she’d ever known. He turned to smile at the anxious little face nestled to her bosom, the bloodied cloth that circled his head a grim reminder they could not stay.
“We’re safe now laddie. Yer uncle ‘ll take us in, he’s no friend of the redcoats. There’ll be rabbits and fish to catch, sheep to herd and you’ll have a playmate…”
Maggie was far from comforted. Their lives were saved but at the cost all else. They would be exiles. Never again would she see her mother’s face or man the market stall with her sisters. What could life hold for her on a remote farmstead…?

*

It was past midnight when the boat bumped against the island shore. Leaping down she helped Jamie pull the vessel up onto the shingle. Waves surged against her legs as she labored. They surged in a different direction here she realized, new waves surging toward a different beach, a new beginning. Somehow they comforted her heart. Though the old was forever gone a new life beckoned. Voices echoed from the blaze that had guided them in the darkness.
“We thought you’d never make it lad!”
A massive figure lunged toward them silhouetted against the blaze. Jamie embraced his brother. Other faces gleamed in the firelight. They were not the only exiles the waves had carried here.

Exile.
Waves crashed to the shore. She listened to their echoes through the surrounding mist, wishing she could follow them home. Around her bundles of cloth held together their remaining possessions. At least they were safe now, enveloped in a shroud of mist and water. Jamie’s oars slipped through the waves counting strokes that took her from all she’d ever known. He turned to smile at the anxious little face nestled to her bosom, the bloodied cloth that circled his head a grim reminder they could not stay.
“We’re safe now laddie. Yer uncle ‘ll take us in, he’s no friend of the redcoats. There’ll be rabbits and fish to catch, sheep to herd and you’ll have a playmate…”
Maggie was far from comforted. Their lives were saved but at the cost all else. They would be exiles. Never again would she see her mother’s face or man the market stall with her sisters. What could life hold for her on a remote farmstead…?

*

It was past midnight when the boat bumped against the island shore. Leaping down she helped Jamie pull the vessel up onto the shingle. Waves surged against her legs as she labored. They surged in a different direction here she realized, new waves surging toward a different beach, a new beginning. Somehow they comforted her heart. Though the old was forever gone a new life beckoned. Voices erupted from the blaze that had guided them in the darkness.
“We thought you’d never make it lad!”
A massive figure lunged toward them silhouetted against the blaze. Jamie embraced his brother. Other faces gleamed in the firelight. They were not the only exiles the waves had carried here.