he worn yellow lines on Highway 17 were coming too swiftly, as each line indicated we were closer to seeing my little girl's grave. Charlie, a thirty year old man who can no longer pretend to be a dumb kid is driving his pick-up truck, given to us by my brother, Johnny. The trip to Othello from Moses Lake is steeped in restless apprehension and agonizing about how we feel. How will it be a year after she died to see Stephanie's plot. Is it the apprehension lingering under the numbness which somehow keeps us going or is the apprehension a tangible presence like a Magpie gnawing at our hearts as if they were in pieces, road-kill along side the path of life we continually have to face with one third of our life gone? To stand staring at a piece of land covered with the brown tattered grass of winter, stark and lifeless. We will stand there knowing no matter how many people tell us she isn't really there, it's a lie. The part of Stephanie we could hold, touch, feel and smell was in the small Urn buried in a shallow grave. I see the cemetery from Highway 17, fir trees jutting from the barren area as if drawing those who have sadness in their hearts to the restful nature of the green trees, the only green in Eastern Washington during March. The icy wind blows cold and bitter, penetrating a person's bones. My heart started pounding as though a bull was in my chest trying to escape confinement when I saw the trees. Charlie told me later his heart did the same thing. We pull in at the exact time they had called Stephanie's time of death a year prior. One pushes such things down as happenstance, but I knew it wasn't happenstance. It wasn't planned. I hadn't planned to go to Othello at all, but I had court regarding the ongoing problems with the accident I had March 6, 2005 when I thought I was driving to save my little girl's life and had a terrible accident. I looked at the summons to appear daily and saw March 6th each time, until I came home after later to see it was for March 16th, not March 6th. I forgot Charlie didn't know where his sister was buried, so he parked a distance from her plot of earth in Othello. I always look for the Eppich's gravestone. It is easy to see and she is west of the Eppich's. I move closer as Charlie was searching and when I said, "She's over here." We are greeted by a single red rose placed on her grave. Seeing the single red rose, my heart broke all over again. Days later her 12 year old son told me he had placed the rose there on his way to middle school. Her grave is marked with a green framed 3 x 4 inch plastic index card holder, where it simply reads, 'In Loving Memory - Stephanie Rose Pierre.' It was like watching her dying all over again. So many things unsaid, so many things she will never see. Silent tears fell over the rims of my lower eyelids onto the ground. I sprinkled my metallic confetti all around her grave and especially near her name marker. I felt ashamed because I haven't gotten her a stone grave marker. There were promises and misunderstandings and if not for Nathanael's other Grandma, Stephanie's plot would be barren with no name at all. She deserves better. Charlie brought over some silken orange flowers that were stuck in the fence around the cemetery. No doubt they were victims of high winds which have been hitting the area lately. He puts them on her grave and mutters, "No reason to let them go to waste." Charlie and I both know her soul is not there, though she is with us so much. She is always on our minds, even when we aren't aware of it. Charlie often hears her voice, I sense her near me when I close my eyes and now I feel her so close to us as we arrive. When Charlie brought the flowers we both stood there in silence. Charlie left me alone with her as he went to the truck. I couldn't think of anything to say as the hollowness of my heart gave me no words. Charlie returned and I stayed until I couldn't stand anymore and decided to go to the truck. The old truck is ugly but runs like it hasn't seen a day of abuse, though covered with paint drippings from when Johnny was painting signs and spray paint on different parts of the body done by my four year old granddaughter Alibama in a moment of artistic flair. The beastly pick-up was also a very good wind break from the chilly breath of nature. As I sit writing this in the truck, my eyes are drawn over to Charlie who is still with his sister at her grave. He is sitting on the ground, a man remembering a lifetime with his sister and looking so lost without her. He was dressed in a fitted, thick, olive green sweater, black slacks and wearing his new glasses sporting nicely cropped hair. He sat on the ground with one leg extended, the other bent at the knee. His fingers are interlaced and cupping his knee and his chin is sitting on his fingers. The sun was shining in such a usual way. I thought back to the sunny day we buried her. I just stared at my son from the truck as he sobbed and talked to his sister for a lengthy time. I thought had I brought my camera or could paint such a scene it would be intensely poignant yet gently calming at the same time. The sun was shining under clouds giving the wintry air a warm glow. As I looked on, all I could see was a soul missing another, sobbing alone, half of a unique pair. They were brother and sister, never feeling separated by the lack of a common paternal lineage. Our three lives are still interwoven even though we can't hug her or touch her anymore, unless we see her in our dreams or our memories. She was Charlie's sister and his closest friend. Stephanie was my only daughter who died unexpectedly when she was only 32 years old. Charlie rose up and slowly returns to the truck. I hear the truck door open. Upon opening Charlie gets in, his usually dancing light blue eyes now a dark green color from crying. As we drove away from the cemetery it ended a year of missing and wanting. Just one year ended of many more to endure with no less heartache. Submitted by Connie Rose Pierre
Connie Rose Pierre has lived her life in Washington state. She has written many short stories for friends and relatives and started college late in life by some years at age 50 and plans on getting her degree in English and Pyschology. Connie is currently living outside the small town of Selah WA next door to her son. She is continuing her education in Yakima then will transfer to graduate school.
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