My friend, Vila Spiderhawk, is an excellent writer..her subject matter is profound and spiritual and about things we can all relate to. Here is a short story from her that I wanted to share with you called Gerda:
A year has passed since Papa died, and I’m still trying to adjust. My father’s dead. I’ll never kiss his cheek again. My world’s completely hollowed out without his gentle steady strength, without his warm and ruddy hand at rest on mine. My morning coffee is so sad without his silly quips and puns. The evening meal is flat without his chanting prayer. And I no longer feel secure without his practical advice to blunt the mundane barbs of daily life.
He died alone, and that’s my fault. I should have gone to Gorlitz too or, better still, I should have gone instead of him. I could have handled the trip. He always bragged that I was good. And he was right. I always found the finest fabrics. He could have died at home with Mama or maybe even not at all. But Mama’s heart was acting up, and so I stayed.
The lying daybreak twinkling rainbows in the early summer dew promised an ordinary uneventful trip. My life was as it should have been. He would be back in fourteen days, and he would bring a little gift for each of us. He’d grinned and waved down from the carriage, blown a kiss, and ridden off, the horse’s hooves clopping serenely on the stones. I had smiled and waved him off and then had opened up the shop and planned the menu for the special meal I’d make when he got home.
Who would have thought it would be Papa who would have a heart attack when all along it had been Mama who’d been sick? It was so cruel. I’d had no hint. He’d always been so energetic, so robust, so full of laughter and affection. I was completely unprepared to read that note Herr Schwangler sent—those pointy pen strokes scrawled across that soulless page. “Herr Felden had a heart attack. Please come and pick up his remains.” What kind of man would send a daughter such cold words?
How small he looked inside the casket, how frail and suddenly how old, robbed of his animated grin, his eyelids blocking humor’s spark. He’d always been my splendid hero, but trussed up like a Pesach* chicken in that horrid brown serge suit and too-tight tie, he looked pathetic, and I longed to throw my body over his. Fiercely protective of my father’s legacy, I was so grateful for our custom of closing the coffin before our callers paid their last respects. I couldn’t have borne for our neighbors and friends to see my brawny father in that shrunken, waxy state.
I thought my blood would stop its pulsing when the rabbi closed the lid, when Mama gasped that frayed dry sob, when that click echoed through the room. And when they lowered his box into that raw wound of a hole, I clenched my jaw so that I thought my teeth would break. The sun still shone; the birds still sang; the heavy scent of peonies still draped the linden boughs, the canopy, and us. The joy was emptied from my life, and yet the natural world lived on, and, because I was just twenty, I knew I’d have to do the same for many years, however bleak the days would be.
I could not throw dirt onto him. Oh, I picked up a stony clod. But my uncompromising fist would not release it. I squeezed it into my palm until the shale shards cut my hand and then I dropped it back onto the vulgar mound. I kissed my mother, a pillar of sorrow veiled in black, and high heels puncturing the sod, I walked away.
A year is gone. Tomorrow we will have the gravestone installation. Rabbi Hurst will lead us in the proper prayers. And when he’s done, we’ll each repeat our cherished memories of Papa and then place a farewell pebble on his stone. I wish I didn’t have to go, although I know my mother needs me. I just don’t want to have to say good-bye again.
*Pesach is the Jewish word for Passover
© VilaSpiderHawk 2010
To see and hear Vila reading this story click on
To learn what happens to Gerda and her mother, pick up
Forest Song: Finding Home and Forest Song: Little Mother.
Available in paperback or Kindle from www.amazon.com
and from my website, www.vilaspiderhawk.com
Or ask for them at your local bookstore.