Fiction

Breathe: A Short Story

BREATHE

The sea called her, the waves whispered her name.

“Come to us,” the water murmured, enchantment rich in its voice.

She stood there, poised, uncertain, ready to spring but held back by some unconscious pull.

It would be so simple to start walking forward and to keep going until she had no choice but to surrender. One step, one little step. She closed her eyes, concentrating on her feet, willing them to move. They remained stubbornly where they were, refusing her, disobeying her.

A wild, half-strangled sob escaped her. Is this what her grief had brought her to? Divided, torn, her heart burning within her yet also empty and hollow with loss. She longed to see him again, to hold his tiny, downy body in her hand, to again have the physical connection to her baby for which her body grieved.

He was only a breath away… An undrawn, suffocated breath away… A water-filled breath away… He was nearly in reach.

Sobs poured out of her now, choking her. She collapsed onto her knees, gasping and sobbing, clutching at the sand with desperate, shaking hands.

A voice, in her head, “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.”

“But you did,” she cried out, unheeding of any other people who might also be on the beach with her. “You did, you let him die!”

“I never left you. Even in your time of sorrow and disaster I was there with you.”

“But he died, he died! Don’t you understand? If you were there how could you let that happen? If you loved me at all, how could you do this?”

“Not even death can separate you from my love.”

“Not even death. You say that like death is nothing. How can you not care?”

“I died for you while you did not know me. I destroyed the power of the grave to steal forever. The sting of death has gone, and you can grieve with hope.”

At these words the woman’s sobs began to subside, though tears still ran down her cheeks, marking her face with the sorrow she carried within her. She thought of a bereavement card she and her husband had been given, in which someone had written, “We cry with you over the loss of your precious son. We pray continually that God will prove his faithfulness to you and that you will know what it means to grieve with hope in your heart.”

“With hope in my heart,” she whispered, remembering how that comment had struck her as a little insensitive, for at the time she was too deep in the well of grief to easily think of her son in heaven, too hurt to think of God without resentment.

“Look up,” said the quiet, clear voice.

She looked up and saw arching in the sky above her a vivid, glorious rainbow. As she gazed at it, peace began to trickle into her heart. She remembered, yes, even in the midst of the trauma of stillbirth, she had not been alone. She remembered the overwhelming sense that it had been a sacred, holy time. She remembered the joy that had overtaken her at the sight of her still, beautiful baby. She remembered being grateful that he was being spared suffering, pain and physical trauma. Grateful that he had gone from the safety of her womb to the wonder of heaven.

Faithful. That is what the rainbow was reminding her: God was faithful and he had not left her and he would not leave her. He would keep his promises.

Cruel, cruel trick of grief; Its relentless pull had made her forget the faithfulness of her father.

Contemplating the rainbow and all it symbolized for her, she let its beauty revive hope in her again. She let it remind her that she had something worth waiting for, even if it was going to be many decades.

Taking a deep, reviving breath, she turned and walked away from the murmuring, whispering water.

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