This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events and places is purely coincidental.
They say when you lose someone, a part of you dies with them. Somehow you still need to find the strength to continue with life, but how can you when you're only half a person?
It was a dreary, wet day. Perfectly apt for the circumstances of the day. I paced up and down my hallway, checking my watch became a habit by the minute. My impatience blended with anxiety was a breath of fresh air compared to the last two weeks. I looked into the living room, my adorable boy, CJ, sat on the rug, not a care in the world. I smiled as I observed him playing with his toy trucks, his chocolate brown curls falling over his face as he scrambled across the floor.
“Look mummy, look!” He shouted excitedly at me, his smile was toothy, rosy cheeks framed his face and his blue eyes glistened with excitement.
“Yes, sweetheart?” I replied, returning the smile.
“Zeus keeps licking my truck!” He giggled adorably. Our German Shepherd followed CJ around the floor. Every move my boy made, Zeus would follow. He had always been a loyal dog, ensuring we were safe whilst Cameron was away.
My focus grew hazy, I had been trying to stay strong for the last two weeks upon hearing the news. Watching my boy and his companion play together distracted me well, but today was proving difficult. My son would grow up with the most loving and protective dog, things that his father should be doing. He should be here, playing with his son, protecting him from the world, and guiding him to make the right choices.
A loud knock at the door stole my thoughts, instantly Zeus trotted to the door ready to stand guard. I walked over, hesitation and anxiousness crawled under my skin as I opened the door.
“Ma’am, the car is ready for you.” The driver announced.
“Thank you, let me grab CJ,” I replied, inhaling deeply. I collected our coats and made my way to my boy, my sweet, innocent boy. I held my hand out, “Come on CJ, we need to go.” CJ looked up at me, confusion and sadness lay in his eyes, he put down his truck and took my hand.
“Are we going to see Daddy?” His inquisitiveness washed over me, feeling a pang of guilt as he asked me one of many questions I had tried to avoid. This poor boy had no idea, I tried several times over the last two weeks to explain what had happened. For being almost 3, his intelligence was that of a 6-year-old. He had started to understand maths and his language was unmistakably that of a higher level. But this information, I could not find the correct words that would not taint his innocence.
“Yes my sweetheart, but we must be quiet, he is sleeping,” I replied, fighting back the tears.
We stepped outside, the crisp air hit me like a ton of bricks. The freshness poured down my throat as I inhaled, stepping out for the first time in weeks. Leaving the house had been excruciating, a difficult step in my grieving. Every time I tried to leave, my guilt and anxiety flooded me, dragging me back to my bed. Each time I attempted to step forward felt like I was taking a step towards reality, the reality of having to move on.
We entered the car, the chauffeur held the door open for us, sheltering us from the rain with his deathly black umbrella. The gentleman looked so at peace with himself, not one emotion was etched on his face, I felt envious that his mask stayed so well in place while mine was falling apart. As he closed the car door, he tilted his top hat at me “Ma’am.” He said with a sympathetic smile. I turned to CJ, who was playing with the window buttons.
The drive to the crematorium took as little as 10 minutes but it felt like hours. Each stop at traffic lights felt like a countdown. A countdown to facing family, to facing friends, to coming to terms with my husband leaving us for the final time, ending his journey in our lives.
As we pulled up, I looked out the window, the rain poured from the skies, condensation blurring my view. The blacks of clothing blended into a shadow, like the shadow of death arriving to collect my husband.
The car door opened and I was immediately hit with the view of Benjamin, my brother-in-law. The same short, sandy coloured hair, swept across his brow to the side. His blue eyes had dulled and looked tired, the epitome of how I was feeling. He held an umbrella above him and gestured with his eyes for me to take his hand.
“Come Lola.” He spoke softly to me, gently coaxing me out of the vehicle. I smiled at the simple intention of his kind words. CJ followed close behind as we exited the vehicle into the drizzle, not a care in the world was on his mind.
“Everyone is here already?” I asked, looking around at what was once a black blur, had now become unclouded, familiar faces. A shiver ran down my back as the coldness hit me, the iciness seeped under my skin, freezing me to the spot. Unable to take another step forward, Benjamin cupped my elbow gently, facing the steps to the building.
“Yes, mum is waiting for CJ.” He stated quietly.
“Lola! CJ!” A short, silver-haired woman rushed forward, wearing a mask-like smile, her weathered face showed that times had been difficult for her. She had suffered the same loss as me yet she looked so much stronger than I felt. She brought me into her arms, her soft bosom cushioned the impact. Her hug wrapped me in warmth and love, trying to soothe the iciness that consumed me. She swiftly moved on to picking up her grandson and smothering him in kisses. The sight filled me with so much joy, and the image took me back to the day we announced she would have a grandchild. This child was her joy, a piece of her son that she would continue to cherish.
Gazing at them both made me extremely grateful that I still had fragments of Cameron in the form of other relatives. I could see so much of my husband in his mother, blue eyes were a dominant gene, something both sons were blessed with. But the resemblance in my brother-in-law broke my heart, I had avoided contact with Cameron's twin brother ever since the news. Deep down I knew he understood, for he must have felt the same emptiness as I.
“Gan, Gan!” CJ exclaimed giggling as he was smothered with her kisses. He squirmed until he was placed back firmly on the ground holding onto Hilda’s hand tightly.
The ceremony was brief, our family friend Richard took the role of reading the Eulogy, something I had avoided regretfully. Richard had asked me on several occasions to rethink my decision leading up to this day and I only wished I had. However, it filled me with even more respect for the man in front of us. Richard had been Cameron’s high school friend, they had joined the Army together at the end of their sixth year, joining the same regiment, and had even ended up at the same unit after passing out of Sandhurst. They were inseparable even throughout their short career together. Richard's constant appearance in our lives made him closer than just a friend, after the news of Cameron he had been there to support me, helping with CJ and making sure we were okay.
I couldn’t erase the image out of my head, the day Richard turned up at our door unexpectedly. The worry rendered across his face, I could feel the remorse radiating from him. That was the day my world came crashing down around me. The day Richard broke the news of Cameron’s death. I had fallen to the floor, shock consumed me like I was drowning as Richard caught me in his arms, I felt my world crumble around me as I struggled to accept his words. Cameron had been overseas on tour, his last mission had taken him out on patrol and was killed in action. No other details were released due to the nature of his mission and I was left with questions refused to be answered. The months before his demise mostly consisted of CJ sending him pictures, no letters or emails came our way but there was no way I anticipated the report of his passing.
Music played in the background of the service room, I didn’t quite recognise the song but then again I didn’t have much involvement in the funeral. In between working, which was the only thing distracting me from life or in fact death, and looking after CJ, it left me little time to operate myself let alone arrange a funeral.
Richard instructed the room that I would be laying the first flower on Cameron’s coffin before everyone else had the chance to say their goodbyes. I stood up, barely holding it together, but I knew I needed to stay strong for CJ, I had managed to hide my grief from him for the past two weeks and I didn’t want to break now. I dragged myself to Cameron, his coffin was a simple soft brown, oak coffin, edged with brass handles. His regimental badges and tour medals gleamed with pride on a union jack flag that lay stiff across the bow, our wedding photo staged perfectly on top, holding the happiness we once felt. A single tear broke through my dam, I picked up a white carnation from the silver vase placed carefully to the left of the coffin. And with a deep breath, I exhaled laying the flower delicately in front of our picture.