Disclaimer: As fun as it was to play with them, they're sadly not mine and it's time to return them to JE.
This, my faithful followers, is it! You've stuck with me through all the angst and laughed with me through all the PSA's. Today ends it all. Thank you all so much for your support and for your continued reviews. Unless you're a writer, then you have no idea how special your words are. I cherish each and every review that I got throughout this story.
I owe a HUGE thank you to my beta and my own personal Mary Lou, Potterwench. She encouraged me to post this story and worked countless hours to clean it all up so it was readable and more enjoyable. I owe her a hell of a lot, but all I have to give is my thanks!
Tissue warning...grab a few Kleenex, sit back and enjoy!
Epilogue - 53 years later
This was not going to be an easy day. Today was probably going to be the hardest day of my life. Today I had to say goodbye to the two most influential people in my life. Two of the people who have taught me more about love and compassion than anyone. Today, I had to say goodbye to my parents.
When I was little, I was more than a little embarrassed about their public displays of affection. Dad would always touch and kiss Mom even when us kids were in the same room. Looking back, even though I was little, I knew exactly how they felt about each other. A blind man could look at them and see the love in their eyes.
When I was six, I snuck downstairs late one night. Mom had put us kids in bed early and said that she and Daddy were going to spend some alone time together. I got curious and snuck down to see what they were doing. I found them wrapped in each other's arms in the kitchen, slowly swaying to unheard music. I saw my dad's lips move, so I assumed he was singing to her, but I never heard anything. I sat and watched them move together for what seemed liked hours. To them, nothing else mattered. To them, no one else was there. At that moment, they only saw each other.
I caught them throughout my years at home doing that same thing. I never asked what song Dad sang to Mom, I figured it was special to them and wasn't any of my business. I would make sure to keep the younger kids out of the kitchen when I caught them. I'm not sure if my parents even realized that I did that.
When I was fifteen, Mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. They called it an aggressive type and didn't give her very good odds to live, but she decided to fight it. She spent weeks in the hospital getting chemo and radiation done. My dad never left her side. I stayed at home to take care of the younger kids with Ella's help. It was the least I could do.
When Mom's hair fell out, Dad shaved his head so she wouldn't feel alone in her baldness. It was strange seeing their two bald heads walk around the house, but it made me realize that there was nothing that my dad wouldn't do for Mom.
Mom got really sick one day, a month before my sixteenth birthday. They admitted her back into the hospital and told us to come say goodbye to her. The doctors didn't expect her live. My dad sat beside her and prayed. I never knew him to be a religious man, but he didn't stop praying as Mom lay in that bed dying. He never let go of her hand either. The doctors and nurses worked around him because he refused to leave her. I was so scared that when she died, he would follow her. He wouldn't survive without her.
Fortunately, he didn't have to. She made a miraculous recovery that day and three months later, her cancer was deemed in remission. The day she came back home, healthy we celebrated in style. All of my uncles were here to welcome her home and each of them made sure to hug and kiss both of my parents. I'll never understand the relationships between all the guys and my mom. It was almost like they needed her just like my dad did.
We didn't have another health scare for many years. I got married to an amazing man when I was 22. We are still happily married and have three wonderful kids. My oldest Gretchen looks just like Mom. Even Dad was amazed at the similarities. Unfortunately, she also got Mom's stubborn determination and fear of nothing. When she was seven, I caught her on the roof looking down. She told me since Grandma flew, then so could she. Luckily, I got her down before she hurt herself. Our roof was a lot taller than mom's old house.
We said goodbye to lots of people throughout the years. First was Great Grandma Mazur. She and her friend decided to take a trip to Vegas one weekend and they never came back. They both passed away with smiles on their faces at the all male review show. Mom said that she died just the way she wanted to, looking at men's packages.
Grandma and Grandpa Plum died a few years after we said goodbye to Great Grandma. They were in a car accident and neither survived the impact. Mom was heartbroken, but she had us kids and Dad to keep her occupied. I miss my grandparents dearly even though Grandma Helen was always trying to get me to cook with her. But like my mom, I burned water.
We had to say goodbye to some of my uncles too. Uncle Tank passed away five years ago and the next year, Uncle Cal died. Mom and Dad took each loss hard and would spend hours after hearing about the deaths, locked in their room together. The hardest was when RahRah died.
Dad got the call late one night and he and Mom rushed to Miami. His daughter Julie was by his side along with his wife and their son. Mom and Dad got there just in time to say goodbye. We buried him next to his parents in Newark. I still visit his grave every year. He was my favorite uncle and I miss him terribly.
I thought saying goodbye to Ranger was hard, but nothing compared to the pain that I felt today. How do you say goodbye to both of your parents at the same time?
Last year, Mom's cancer came back and they found that it had spread. There was nothing they could do to save her this time, so she opted to just let nature take its course. She and Dad spent everyday together. My brothers and I would bring our families to the house so that our kids got to spend time with her before she passed.
Last week, we were all at the house. Mom was in bed and I couldn't find my youngest daughter, so I went to look for her. I found Grace in Mom's room talking to her. I listened outside the door.
"Tell me about your boyfriend, Cole." Mom's voice was raspy and tired, but she always made time to talk to her grandkids.
"Grandma, I don't know what to do. Cole and I just started dating a month ago, but I know that I love him and he says that he loves me, but I don't know...he asked me to marry him." I didn't know my youngest was engaged and I was kind of hurt that she didn't tell me first.
"What did you say when he asked?"
"I said I had to think about it. I mean, how do you know that you really love someone?. How did you know that Grandpa was your soul mate?" I felt Mom's smile. I had heard their story so many times that I didn't need to hear it again. I turned to walk away, but heard Mom say her favorite quote about love.
"The best kind of love is with the most unexpected person at the most unexpected time. I never expected to find the love of my life in a diner, but I did. You just have to trust your heart. It will never lead you in the wrong direction." I smiled and walked down to the kitchen where Dad was standing talking to my brother, Damon.
I gave him a tight hug and looked at the fear and worry in his eyes. He knew what was coming and the sadness I saw broke my heart. I knew what was coming too, and I prayed that we were all prepared.
Two nights later, I had very vivid dream. I dreamed that my parents were in their kitchen dancing like they used to do. They were holding each other tightly and swaying together with no music. Mom looked so frail in my dream and my father looked just as exhausted. I saw Dad's lips moving as he whispered the words to their song. I never heard the words and I just watched them as they danced.
My mom's soft voice broke through the silence. "I'm so tired, my Love." Dad kissed her tenderly and I saw a tear fall from his eye.
"I know you are, Beautiful. I'm ready when you are and I'll follow you wherever you go." She smiled and nodded her head.
"I can see them, Les. Can you?" I looked to where she was staring and saw a group of people who I hadn't seen in years. Grandma and Grandpa Plum were there along with Dad's parents that I never got to meet. I couldn't stop the tears when our lost loved ones smiled as my parents began to walk to them.
"Welcome home, Babe." Uncle RahRah embraced Mom first and then drew Dad into a tight hug. My Uncle Hec welcomed them into his open arms and I cried as I watched my parents leave me behind and be welcomed into their families open arms.
Right before they walked out of my sight, Dad turned to me and smiled. I knew that he was telling me goodbye. I woke up with tears pouring down my face and knew that they were dead. I threw on my clothes and sped to their house. Right after I pulled into the driveway, Hector and Damon pulled up behind me and they both had tears in their eyes.
"Did you guys have a dream too?" I asked the question, but already knew the answer. They nodded and we all walked up the stairs to our parent's bedroom. We found both Mom and Dad in bed snuggled together. Neither was breathing and they both had peaceful smiles on their faces. Even in death, they were together. It was a sad experience, but I was happy that they died together. I'm not sure either of them would have survived very long without the other. That's how strong their love was.
Today, we were gathered to honor them and to say goodbye. My brothers each got up and spoke a few words about our parents. By the time it was my turn, I took a deep breath and walked to the front of the crowded church. The few remaining uncles were spread throughout the pews and I caught each of their eyes as I spoke.
"Oscar Wilde once said, 'You don't love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song that only you can hear.' That is the perfect description of my parents' relationship. I would catch them together dancing close to no music. I knew Dad was singing to Mom, but I never heard the words. I guess I didn't need to. Mom heard them and that was all that mattered." I swallowed the lump in my throat and continued. "Whatever they did, they did together. There isn't a time that I can remember seeing them apart for more than a day. It wasn't possible for them to be apart any longer than that." I paused and wiped a tear from my eye. I heard sniffling and some coughs.
"They died how they lived. Close together and always holding each other. I hope each of you here got to see first hand just how much love they had for each other. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out just how much they cared. Their love was infectious, too. It made me love my husband and children the same way. I pray that my children will see that love in me too. I want to be the example that my parents were to me." I paused again to swallow the lump in my throat.
"I will miss them every day for the rest of my life because there is such a huge hole where they used to be. They were larger than life and I have no clue how I'm going to go on without them, but I will and so will the rest of you. Mom told me just days before she passed away, 'If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever.' That's where my parents will remain and if you join me in keeping them in your hearts, then they will never be forgotten." I stepped down and walked back to my seat and family. Grace placed her hand in mine and I noticed the huge diamond on her left hand. I smiled and rubbed the ring. She took Mom's advice and said 'yes' to Cole's proposal. I look at them and can see Mom and Dad.
Finally, it was almost over. I stood by their gravesite with Hector and Damon on either side of me. We were all silent, but each had tears flowing from our eyes. Damon walked away first and then Hector followed. He made his way over to Uncle Hector's grave. He came to visit and talk to him often.
"Thank you both for giving us the example of how to love unconditionally and with every ounce of your being. I love you both and we will all miss you. Oh, Gretchen named the baby Lester Mateo, after you Dad. They are both healthy and will come visit a little later. I'm sorry you guys didn't get to meet him, but I know you're watching us from up above. I'm glad you're both together." I walked away and headed toward the waiting car that would take me to the hospital to see my first grandchild. Mom and Dad would always be in my heart and they would never be forgotten.