She took a deep breath and paused a moment to compose herself. Then, slowly, she stood up, feeling every day of her close to 60 years. She smoothed her black skirt and brushed off the sleeves of the black jacket. Cat hair! No wonder she never wore black. She climbed the stair to the podium and turned to face her sisters.
“He made me laugh. It was such a joy to find someone I could talk to about just about anything. He not only kept up. He was often a few steps ahead. That was something.”
She sighed and paused. there were nods and murmurs of assent.
“Yes, he was almost always there for me. I thought it would never end. And yet, everything does, doesn’t it?”
She smiled weakly. Eyes were brimming with tears, including hers.
“I can’t really talk of times we shared. There were so few. And, yet in my mind…”
Her voice trailed off. “Yes, yes, we know” came the voices of those gathered.
“It’s always in my mind. Well, it’s time to lay him to rest. And with him, those misplaced hopes and dreams.”
She felt tears stream down both sides of her face. She didn’t bother with a tissue. She just caught them as they reached her chin and sat heavily in her chair.
The woman next to her took her hand. She was about 20 years younger.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“And I yours. We knew it wouldn’t last. Even he gave it a hopeless prognosis. I just refused to see it until it was too late. But I really thought yours had a chance.”
“Yes, he seemed so full of life. Remember the trip that never was?”
They smiled at each other knowingly.
“But then his family ate away at him like a cancer.”
One by one each of the younger women approached to offer their condolences and they were comforted in return. Each had at one time laid to rest a lost love and with it the requisite hopes and dreams. It struck her that they were so young. The twenties were apparently a perilous time. While others were finding love and settling down, these young women were learning to cope with loss.
Finally her eyes were drawn to a couple of young girls in the back of the room. The older was only about 5 or 6 and holding and comforting a young girl of around 3.
“Who have you lost, my precious ones?”
“My dog. My daddy took her. She was my friend.”
The youngest girl sobbed. The older one turned to her with eyes that seemed wise beyond her years.
“My daddy. The police came and took him. Mommy called them cuz he was drunk and he wasn’t s’posed to be there.”
She gathered the two little girls in her arms.
They’d found where the string of losses had begun.
“it has to stop with me,” she said to no one in particular.