By Ellie Dias

Maddie blinked hard to stop herself from daydreaming about Paris. She was standing by Dad’s casket, surrounded by her infirmed grandparents, his friends, colleagues, and two gossipy girls she never spoke to. Appearances hadn’t changed since her mother and sister’s funeral – black clothes, waxy faces, puffy red eyes.

The spray of flowers made of lavender roses and deep purple was intended to be an expression of gratitude for time shared. She had hoped it would alleviate the sadness but discovered its beauty hid the truth her heart couldn’t bear. Her father was dead, and she was alone.

After standing gamely for three hours accepting hugs and condolences, Maddie arrived at the local restaurant for the planned buffet. The smell of the food assaulted her senses. A hand over her mouth, she turned cold overhearing the two catty girls discussing the deaths of her mother and sister to anyone who would listen.

“Do you remember how some sicko murdered Maddie’s mother and sister? And now losing her father to cancer? It’s a wonder she hasn’t lost it.”

She had to bite her tongue from yelling, “You have no right to be here.”

Growing weary of the quiet pretense of coping, she made the obligatory rounds of “thank you for coming.” While everyone was busy eating and talking, she slipped out unnoticed and drove back to the cemetery.

She made two bouquets from the casket spray and tied them with greenery. Buried two feet away were her mother and sister.

Katherine Lynette O’Dell

October tenth, 1918 ∼ September 28th, 1952

“A mother holds
her children’s hands for a while,
their hearts forever.”

Wasn’t a while supposed to mean more than eight years? She knelt in front of Annie’s headstone with its carved cherub sitting on top:

Annie Grace O’Dell

August 13, 1950 ∼ September 28th, 1952

“So Small, So Sweet, So Soon.”

The statue did nothing to soften the bitter fact of what lay beneath it.

Twelve years ago, Maddie stood here. Tears had fallen to the ground, and the same pain had been absorbed by the earth. She looked at the rows of gravestones. Left and right, front and back – it was like a sea of the dead. Some were smooth marble with new black lettering. Others crumbled from too many years of weathering. How could a place be so full and empty at the same time? It was a cruel irony when lives were supposed to be marked with something so cold and immobile.

The cemetery was intended to be a loved one’s final resting spot – where you could still feel a deep connection. To her, it was a place separating the living from the dead and would never be one to bridge the loneliness. Tears came heavy and endless. Whatever she came for was not here.

Trudging back to the car, the unsettling echos of “thank you for coming” crowded her brain. The words were too trivial for what this day called for. Ready to leave this misery behind, she decided to keep her father’s promise to fulfill her artist’s dream to see Paris.

\"\"Ellie Dias’ career has been focused on health and wellness as a biology professor, pediatric nurse, clinician working with families whose babies were at risk for SIDS, and division VP of a women’s health care company. Author of BIG RED: HOW I LEARNED SIMPLICITY FROM A SUITCASE, she has completed her first novel, WHERE DARKNESS LIES.


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