Nebraska Center for Writers

by Micaela Gilchrist

Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, June 16, 1842

WE BURIED HIM THIS MORNING, but the shock of his death pulls me back through the decades where I wander unbidden through every moment of the years we spent together on the banks of the Mississippi river. I see the prairie swept purple with coneflower, I find myself upon the soft grass of the peninsula, and it is difficult to pull myself back to my duties, to my son and to this place. The house is dark, but for the taper light, and the quiet is broken by the dispirited groan of his spaniel, who looks to me for reassurance I cannot offer. How is it possible that my love is not sleeping in the next room? I rise to search for him but find only a cold silence over our bed.
After the funeral service, the widow James pressed a speckled hand against my cheek and whispered to me, "Now he is gone, you must pacify yourself with living as though your footsteps have never marked the earth." Her words have wisped around in my mind since she said them, slighting words, and if this is Mrs. James's way of comforting the grieving, she can keep her comfort. My sorrow is born of my wound, for with his death, my soul has been halved. On spring evenings such as this, we would walk together through the hickory grove and talk for hours of the people and the times we had known together. He would take me in his arms, but look wistfully past me at the river, toward the north, and he would say to me, "I believe the work of the living is the retelling of memory. A thread not to be broken." And knowing what he said to be true, I awoke this morning, having slept beside him one last time. I looked down upon his silent countenance and dreaded the task before me.
I would have to begin the work of remembering.

Reprinted with permission
from The Good Journey
Copyright © 2001
by Micaela Gilchrist
Simon Schuster

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