Black…Slow fade in...
Scene: Sunlight gently washing over the trees as it slowly rises. Birds already busy with their day are seen darting back and forth, pausing along the shore line of the lake, then off about their business. Gentle ripples of water reflect the sun's advance radiating like electric impulses softly kissing the pebbles along the shore.
Appearing motionless, perhaps mesmerized by the scene before him, you can see the silhouette of one man and the distant town lights giving up the night watch to the light of day. From the right enters a young woman. She carefully approaches him. So as not to startle him she pauses after a few steps, then continues closer. "You are up early," she says softly.
He runs his hand through his hair and rubs his eyes. "I never went to bed," he says.
"Oh, Jim. Don't tell me you've been here..."
"Yes, for the most part," he says interrupting her. She reaches for him placing her hand on his shoulder and running it down his arm until she grips his hand, squeezing it gently.
"What did it accomplish?" she asks.
"Fade," he replies. She cocks her head slightly trying to understand. He repeats, "Fade. Like fade in, fade out. He said his life is fading."
"Oh. Your dad."
He turns quickly toward her, and when she looks he turns his head away, unable to look her in the eyes. "I'm afraid," he says quietly. "I'm scared to face this. I mean, I never saw someone die before."
His hand begins to quiver as he raises it towards his face. Then placing it over his eyes he begins to cry. Not weeping, but the tears of a frightened child standing alone, feeling lost.
"Oh, Jim. I wish I could make this easy for you. But death isn't easy, dying is," she says.
Wiping the tears from his face he asks, "I don't understand. What's the difference?"
"Your father is dying. It's time. His dying is a natural transition in life. He's ready, you're not. Dying for him is easy because he's lived so hard. He worked hard. He played hard. He loved even harder. He's complete. He's ready. But death is hard. Hard for all who loved him. Hard for all who will miss him. Hard to accept and hard to live with."
"Fade. It's the thought of him fading away. Like...like going to darkness," he says. "He is so brilliant! So bright...he shouldn't just fade."
"So that's why you stayed here all night," she says.
"To see a bright day fade into night," he confirms. They both looked out to the horizon. The sun now shining bright, and the distant lights gone.
"You stood here to see the sun set, the day fade into darkness," she tells him. "But over time you also saw the sun rise again. The darkness gave into the light. So will your grief. Your pain will be great and the loss even greater.
“Contrary to what everyone will try to tell you, it does not fade. What does happen is the realization of how great your love was for him. The grief, the loss, the pain is like this lake. It runs deep. In the darkness, it is there and you will fear it because you cannot see it. But in the light of day, as the night fades, all of this is revealed and you are in awe of its magnitude and beauty. The same thing you feared in darkness. All the factors are the same. All the things remain.
“Just like your love for your father. It is here now and will be afterwards. In the darkness and in the light. In the darkness you will grieve. In the light you will see how beautiful it is."
Jim turns toward her and they embrace. "Now, go to him to see how beautiful it is and always will be," she whispers in his ear. The sun shines. The birds fly. The ripples kiss the beach. The young man and woman exit to the right.
Fade to darkness. See the light.
Note: This story was inspired by the experience of my cousin Jim and his wife on the day my uncle died.