Gordon Tracy sighed as he struggled to tighten the knot in his tie. Each year his whole family went through this same ritual, and instead of everyone feeling better, it seemed to get worse each year. Standing infront of the mirror in the room he shared with his brother Virgil, Gordon attempted to undo the uncomfortably tight collar of his black suit.

Over the years he'd had to get three different suits as he grew up, but they had all felt uncomfortable, the same stifling, tight sensation, tugging at his chest. Of course, Gordon reflected it might not have been the suits at all. It might have just been the emotion, always so raw, so real at this time of year.

It was the 17th anniversary of Lucille Tracy's death.

It wasn't as though he wanted to forget her, Gordon reflected as he buttoned up the suit jacket, but he'd been just five when she died, and all he could remember were various fragments of memory and he couldn't tell whether those were real or what he had pieced together from what others had told him. A smell, a certain song, that's what he could remember, but nothing solid, no real memories to comfort him.

He knew that it must be bad for Alan, having absolutley no memories at all, but the way Gordon saw it he had drawn the short straw. His elder brothers thought that he was lucky, he was young enough to forget. Gordon didn't see it that way.

Alan being young enough to have no memories, had no real reason to grieve, although he'd lost something, he was so young that he didn't know he'd had it. Scott, Virg and John had memories and yes it was difficult for them, but they could hold on to those memories of their mother. Gordon himself, had just fragments and so it made it harder for him to remember and harder for him to forget. The only tangiable memory he had of his mother was a conversation that he'd never really know if it was real or not.

After his hydrofoil accident at the start of the year, Gordon had lain unconcious for three months, but on the night before he came out of the coma, he saw his mother.

Now 6 months later he couldn't be sure that what had happened then was real or not, perhaps it had just been a dream. But it was one hell of a dream, he'd had a wonderful conversation with his mother. She'd told him never to give up and that it wasn't his time. Gordon knew these were cliches but his mother had talked to him about things that he had done when he was a child, things that he himself couldn't recollect. She'd finally drifted away into a bright, white light and Gordon had awoken in a hospital bed.

No-one knew what he'd seen that day, Gordon had kept it to himself. He'd wanted to tell his brothers at first, but then the pain he was in, took over and obliterated everything, it took all of his control and effort to get better. But as he recovered slowly, but surely, Gordon began to question whether it had really been his mother that he had spoken to. He had decided that it would only hurt his father and his brothers if he began spouting off about his mother, when they rarely spoke of her. So he placed it to the back of his mind. There was one time when he came very close to telling Alan after a few too many glasses of wine, but decided that Alan would think he was crazy.So there it stayed, at the back of his mind, but this year's anniversary had brought it all back. Could it really have been his mother? Gordon didn't know, but one thing was for sure, he couldn't tell everyone about it.

The Tracy men rarely spoke of Lucille, Gordon knew it wasn't healthy and occasionally he'd ask something or one of them would volunteer something about Lucille, but never around their father. Jeff had never spoken about her to his sons, aside from this event, where they would all go and place flowers at her grave, he volunteered no information of their mother.The pain was still to raw for him.

Gordon gazed at his reflection as it mirrored his wistful look, one of these days his family would have to break that silence. A noise had Gordon spinning as Scott barged into the room, his usual immaculate self, the only sign that anything was different were the worry lines evident on his face.

'Don't you ever knock?' Gordon asked in annoyance.

'No I'm your big brother that gives me divine right to walk in whenever I want' Scott replied as he frowned disparigingly at Gordon's attempt at tying a knot in his tie.

'Come here' he sighed beckoning Gordon to him.

'I could have been naked or anything' Gordon replied,but he steeped forward to allow Scott to correct his tie.

Scott raised an eyebrow and then rolled his eyes at his younger brother, 'Little brother I powdered that ass when you were little, do you think I haven't seen it before?'

Instead of being embarrassed Gordon laughed, 'You are one lucky guy then' he said, 'people would pay to see a piece of my ass.'

'Oh yeah who?' Scott replied his eyes dancing with laughter, 'your gay fan club?'

'Oh shut up' Gordon said annoyed, 'I'll have you know, the girls at the pool would pay to see it.'

'Sure' Scott murmered,and then glanced seriously into Gordon's eyes placing his hands on his brother's shoulders , 'You ok?' he asked gently.

Gordon resisted the urge to roll his eyes, Scott did this every year, he felt it was his duty to check that all of his brothers were ok. Gordon appeased him.

'Yeah I'm fine' he said in reply,'are you?'

Scott immediately averted his eyes and muttered gruffly, 'Yep,come on we've gotta get a move on, the guys are waiting'.

Gordon sighed to himself as Scott ushered him from the room, it was just like Scott to worry about you, but not let you worry about him.

As they entered the lounge, the other four Tracy males stood somberly.

'Come on boys' Jeff said, his voice hollow and quiet, 'Let's go.'

Scott slowly lay his single red rose underneath his mothers headstone. 'I miss you mom.' he thought to himself. Then he composed himself, stepped back and put a reassuring arm around John and Alan.

Virgil stepped forward, he avoided looking at the headstone and fiddled with the stem of his rose. He could never look at the headstone, it just seemed inconcievable to him that his mother was under there somewhere. 'I'll never sing a song without thinking of you' he silently vowed to his mother, and lay his rose alongside Scotts'.

John broke away from Scott and walked to the grave, he knelt down and pushed his rose into the earth, propping it up against the headstone. Then he let his fingers trace the inscription on the stone, 'Lucille Tracy, admired by some, respected by many, loved by all. A much loved mother to Scott,Virgil,John,Gordon and Alan and cherished wife of Jeff, you may be gone from our sight but never from our hearts.' John who had been the closest to his mother, slowly dusted the dirt from the stone and got to his feet. 'I love you mum' he said silently.

Gordon knew it was his turn, that he should say or do something, but he found he couldn't. All this suffering in silence, wasn't fair to any of them, or to their mother.

Alan, seeing that Gordon wasn't about to go, went before his brother and put his rose alongside Johns. 'I wish i'd known you' he said softly, and turned to walk away.

As his father and brothers stared at him Gordon walked towards the grave, but then stopped and whirled to face them.

'YOU SEE?' he shouted, 'THAT'S THE PROBLEM HERE, THAT RIGHT THERE!' Pointing his finger at Alan he frowned mutinously.

'Gordon!' Jeff shouted,' What are you talking about?'

Scott,Virgil,John and Alan looked completely confused.

'THIS ISN'T FAIR!' Gordon yelled in desperation.

A look of understanding dawned on Jeff's face, 'Oh I know son,' he began , 'losing your mother at such a young age.....'

'NO!' Gordon interuppted, 'That's not it' he said speaking more calmly.

'Then what's unfair?' Jeff asked, baffled by his son's outburst.

'The fact that we can't talk about her.' Gordon said quietly, 'that everytime we try to, we have to stop because it makes you sad.The fact that Alan had to whisper how he felt just now, and...' he continued, addressing his other brothers, 'you guys couldn't even say how you felt out loud.'

Scott looked from his father to Gordon, his expression weary.

Virgil, John and Alan all looked in equal measures, sad and shocked that Gordon was actually saying what they all felt.

'Gordon' Jeff scolded his tone angry, 'This is neither the time or the place....'

'You know what dad.' Gordon said softly, 'I think it is.'

Jeff looked decidedly annoyed.

'Look dad, name me a better place to talk about mom, than here, where she is, where her spirit is?'

Alan looked from Gordon to their father, both were completely stubborn, both were argumentative and neither looked like they were backing down. Alan looked at the others and thought that one of them should help.

'Um..Dad....' he began, 'I think Gordo's right'.

Jeff turned to his youngest in surprise. 'What?'

'Gordo's right. I mean, I didn't know mom but sometimes I feel like I'd like to ask questions about her, but I don't want to hurt you, so I don't.'

Jeff stared in surprise.

'And sometimes' John piped up, 'I think to myself, mum would have loved that joke but I can't say it out loud cos it makes you so sad.'

Jeff brought a hand to his mouth

'I wrote a song for mom' Virgil spoke up, 'but I didn't want to play it, cos' I guess I thought you might guess who it was for.'

Jeff rubbed a hand across his forehead

'Before she left that day..' Scott added, 'I made her angry. She died mad at me.'

Jeff's face crumpled and he sagged visibly, Gordon took his arm and they both sat down on the earth next to Lucille's grave. It wasn't long before all six Tracy men were sitting on the wet grass.

'I'm a terrible father' Jeff said softly.

'No you're not father' Gordon asserted, 'you just loved her that's all, I can't imagine how hard losing her must have been on you.'

'That's no excuse for shutting her out Gordon' Jeff said huskily, 'I shut Lucille out of my memory and in consequence out of all of yours'. I just didn't want to face the fact that she was dead. And the first step to believing that someone is lost to you is when you remember and talk about your past together.' Pausing he looked at each of his sons, seeing a part of Lucille in all of them, 'I think I'm ready to talk now'. he said gently.

Twenty-five minutes later the Tracy clan were in hysterics,

'so you're saying that Mom climbed out of the bedroom window, to see you and you had just climbed up to see her?' Alan asked between giggles.

'Yep' Jeff replied grinning at the memory, 'all I remember is your grandfather coming into your mom's room and finding me, climbing into the window and his precious daughter, nowhere to be found. Woah he was mad. He even went and got his old rifle.'

Scott roared with laughter, 'I always knew Grandpa Thompson, didn't really like you Dad.'

'What gave you that impression Scott?' Jeff asked with a wicked grin, 'the cane he loved to wield at me, or referring to me constantly as 'stick boy'?'

Virgil smiled, this felt so much better than keeping everything bottled up. It was almost like they were keeping their mother alive, he almost felt her presence with them.

Gordon realised for the first time since the hydrofoil accident that seeing his mother might have been real. He decided that this was the time to talk about it.

'You know after my accident..' he said seriously, causing everyone to look at him, 'I was lying their one night and I felt like I was floating, I mean, well I can't describe it, it was like I wasn't connected to myself anymore....'

'Like an out of body experience?' John volunteered,frowning thoughtfully.

'Yeah,I guess so' Gordon replied, 'well, I saw this blinding light and then this woman appeared beside me and I don't know how, but I just knew who it was....'

'Mom?' Virgil breathed in shock.

'Yeah' Gordon replied, 'I think it was.' he paused before continuing.

Jeff had gone quite pale, but the others looked not entirely convinced.

'She spoke to me' he said gently, 'she said some things that I didn't know, wanted me to say some things...I......'

'Go on Gordo' Scott prodded gently.

'Scott,' his brother began, 'she said to tell you she was really sorry for telling you she didn't have time, she said to tell you, it was her fault, and that she didn't believe the last thing you said, she knew you didn't mean it.'

Scott was staring at Gordon, eyes wide with disbelief

'Does that mean anything to you?' he asked Scott

'We argued' Scott stammered, 'on the day she died. i wanted her to play with me, she said she couldn't, that she had to go shopping, I told her I hated her.' Scott buried his head in his hands and began to sob.

John rubbed his back reassuringly, 'she forgave you Scott. She wasn't mad at you when she died.' he said calming his older brother.

'John' Gordon spoke up, 'she said to tell you that you shouldn't give up on your dream, that you should do what you and her talked about.'

John smiled, his eyes tearing up, but for some reason he found he wasn't surprised by his mom's advice.

'What was she talking about John?' Jeff asked

'She wanted me to become a writer. That's what we always talked about.' John said shaking his head in wonder.

'And you Virg..' Gordon said, 'she wanted you to carry on writing your music, she said that your song, 'By my Side' was beautiful, and she said to say thankyou.'

'That's the song I wrote for her.' Virgil said weeping onto Scott's shoulder.

'Al...' Gordon adressed the youngest, 'she said that you came to her grave?' he said frowning at Alan, 'that you asked her a question.She said 'in every way that matters I have.'

A tear escaped down Alan's cheek and he looked up to see everyone staring with questioning looks, 'I asked if she could come back to us?' he volunteered.

Jeff smiled, it seemed Lucille had come back to them, through Gordon. She had sent messages to make sure that thye were all alright.

'Dad' Gordon said, 'she wanted you to know something.'

Jeff raised an eyebrow, his heart in his mouth.

'She said, 'I love you Jeff Tracy almost as much as Janice Elks from the Yacht Club.'

Jeff burst out laughing, trust Lucille to be jealous even when she was dead. His boys looked confused.

'Janice Elks was a lady from the bridge club who took quite a liking to me' he explained, 'your mother was furiously jealous.'

His sons smiled contentedly.

'And you Gordon' Jeff said to his second youngest, 'What did she say to you?' he asked

'She said go back' Gordon said softly, 'and I did.'

The Tracy family left the grave on the cliff on Tracy Island later that evening, they walked back happily arms around each others shoulders. Lucille was still alive to them, in their heats and now in their shared memories. And somewhere over the sea, a dove flew across the light blue sky.

the end