Special thanks go out to Dagmara for featuring my story today. Here’s the link:
Here’s the story if you don’t want to use the link:
I was five when my parents were killed in a car crash. My closest relative was Mom’s older sister, Aunt Sally, who was unmarried and considered by many to be “Nothing but an old lesbian.” I had no idea what they were talking about, she’d always be kind to me, so when she offered to take me in and raise me on the day after the crash I was as happy as I could be, given the circumstances.
Soon after I moved in, one night in her backyard I asked, “Aunt Sally, where do you think my mom and dad are right now?”
Sally and her friend April and I were sitting on lawn chairs. It was July and my aunt was off work from her teaching job at the University of Minnesota. I was drinking some lemonade and Sally and April, a nurse at the Hennepin County Medical Center, were sharing a bottle of white wine. She set her glass aside and turned to face me. She had long, prematurely grey hair she wore in a thick braid and the biggest blue-green eyes I’d ever seen; eyes that seemed to look right into my soul. “Jerry, your parents will always be right here,” she patted her chest, “right here in your heart.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, “But they’re gone, Aunt Sally, and I miss them so much.” I realized right then and there that I’d never, ever, see my mom and dad again. The thought was hard to image but true. Living In my heart? For a five year old, that seemed like an incredible stretch of the imagination.
April picked up on my sudden sadness and switched gears, trying to help. “You have photographs, you know,” she said, reaching over to brush a mosquito from my arm. “You can look at them. That’s always a good thing.”
April was a kind person, but trying to make sense of death to someone was always hard, let alone that I was just a five year old kid. “But it’s not the same,” I whined. Then I lost what little dignity I had left and collapsed in tears that I couldn’t control. I’d never cried so much in my life.
Sally left her chair, knelt in front me and took my hands, “You know,” she said, her voice soft and full of compassion, “Your mom and dad were wonderful people, and they loved you very much. They were with you your entire life and I know how much it hurts that they are gone. I’ll bet if they could, they’d tell you that whenever you’re lonely and you miss them, they will be anywhere you want them to be.”
My ears perked up. “Really?” I forced myself to stop crying, which took a while. But I have say that it was nice to have something to hang my hopes on. April handed me a Kleenex so I could wipe my eyes and blow my nose.
“Sure,” Sally said. “Anywhere. Just choose. Then you can see them anytime you want to.”
I thought about for a moment and then it finally made sense to me. All I had to do was pick. So I did.
I pointed to the sky. “That’s where I want them to be.”
Aunt Sally looked, her beautiful eyes following my outstretched arm. “Up there by that constellation?”
She saw the questioning look in my eyes. “Constellation?”
“Yes, that group of stars up there.”
“Yeah. Up there,” I pointed again.
She smiled. “That’s called Orion. The Hunter. See, it has three stars for a belt.”
I smiled and repeated the name, “Orion. That’s a great name,” I said. ” It’s cool. I love it.”
Sally stood up and pulled me to my feet and gave me an all encompassing hug. “I think I even see your mom and dad up there,” she told me. “They seem really happy.”
“I see them, too,” April added. “They look great.”
I hadn’t been this happy since the car crash. It felt good have a feeling in my body other than sorrow; like life was going to go on and not always be so sad.
We watched the night sky for a long time that night. Sally and April talked to me about stars and constellations and it was fun. In fact, it even made me forget about my loneliness for a while.
Finally, it was time to go inside. We stood up and walked to the back door, but before we went inside I turned and waved one last time, saying, “By Mom. Goodnight Dad. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And you know what? The next night they were still there and have been ever since. I was never lonely for them again.