AN – First, I started this from a dream I had during a midday nap last year. I typed up to the part before the description of Riley, but this was actually intended for an original piece I hoped to fit into an original fiction one day. However, reviewing it inspired me to use it for this. The rest I began in January after looking through some of my other "plot bunny" ideas I actually typed up.
I was looking for inspiration (which I have some parts) to get back into writing Waterfall Beginnings and then I came across this again. I knew I couldn't use it for WfB, but inspiration hit for my one-shot story, so I went with it. Which means, for the WfB readers I do intend to continue this story, but, as promised, I will not post new chapters until I have written it all out. I know the frustration of long waits between updates. Therefore, since I do not know where I am going to take it at this time (though parts are written), I believe this is the best thing to do.
Second, this chapter took a turn I did not plan, or intend when I started it, but I am not disappointed with the results. However, it may not fall into everyone's beliefs, or ideals. I hope you can read this with open hearts and open minds. If you choose to continue reading, please remember, you have been warned and made the choice, but I am glad you did.
Finally, I hope you enjoy this "bonus" chapter… with love, I thank you. :D
Thank you to hlsmith for her beta work and MarieCarro for your amazing banner work and patience.
Chapter Words Minus ANs: 6,614
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Chapter 2 – Day and Night ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I watch my grandfather, an aging man who has been through many years of pain, suffering, and the ultimate happiness, as he sits among all his children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren gathered together to celebrate his 96th birthday. He is clearly reflecting on his life as he watches his family talking, playing, and enjoying life together. He looks at my Aunt Kate, for a few minutes with a light and gentle smile on his face. "You walked toward me in your white dress with your auburn hair flowing down to your waist in soft waves, pulled back at the sides. You looked so beautiful."
As soon as he began talking, we all fall silent and just listen, hanging on his every word. Aunt Kate begins to interrupt him, ready to tell him what we were all thinking. Dad (grandpa), don't you mean Mom (grandma), but he continues, "I had never seen anything more breathtaking in my life and never thought it could be surpassed, but I was so wrong. You only grew more alluring each new day and each time you were pregnant was like looking directly into the sun; happiness radiated off you." Based on the way he is looking at her and his choice of words, it is obvious he was not referring to Aunt Kate.
He stops with the same contented and peace-filled smile on his face, watching again with a mix of joy and a bit of pain filling his eyes. Aunt Kate did wear grandma's dress on her wedding day and style her hair the same as the day grandmother walked down the aisle. She also has two children, so we couldn't be fully certain. Aunt Kate decides to check anyway. "Dad, are you talking about Mom on your wedding day?"
His facial expression changes ever so slightly, as though he is startled out of a daydream, before he says, "No, child, why would I do that?" He now reflects his confusion and is a bit forlorn. Aunt Kate is flustered; her mouth bouncing open and close trying to think of how to answer because we were all sure he was not talking about her.
"Grandpa", he turns to look at me, "we all thought this. It was the look on your face and you have been quiet for several minutes now. It seemed like you were clearly reflecting back on your life. When you started speaking, there was absolute joy on your face. The same look we have seen hanging on the wall over the television." I choose not embarrass him and leave out his use of the word alluring after his claim to have been speaking of his own daughter.
He leans toward me from his recliner sitting to my left and gently pats my knee, "Yes, my child, but it is how all my family makes me feel because it all began with your grandmother." He smiles broadly at me with twinkling eyes, which only increases when a hand cups his left shoulder. Suddenly there are no traces of pain in his eyes, simply pure, unadulterated joy, happiness, and love. "Hello, Gorgeous. I missed you", he says without even looking and grasps her hand in his.
She kisses his temple as he sits back in the chair. "I missed you too, Handsome. What have you all been talking about?" He laughs boisterously.
"Oh my dear, our children and grandchildren think I am too old to know when I am talking about our wedding day, or our children's wedding day." My grandmother looks at him in confusion, so we clarify the misunderstanding.
She laughs along with my grandfather. "Oh, children, you have blessed our lives every day and made them just as glorious and special as any day we spent when it was just the two of us, actually, more so. Every, single day of our lives has grown in love and happiness. Is it really so unbelievable that each special day of our offspring would only add to our lives?"
Then she gets serious as she looks meaningfully into each of our eyes, just as she did with all of us when we were growing up to make sure we understand the depth of her words and how much she believes them. "All of our children, and grandchildren, are our very breath. You are a reflection of a pure love coming from the very soul. You are the results of two soul mates coming together and proof of what love can do. We have been through difficult times and yet, we couldn't be more proud to see our love shining back at us in the form of our strong, loving children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Our hearts are one. Your joy is our joy, your pain is our pain, and your love is our love. It all began from a simple seed of love that grew into mighty oaks."
Then they laugh together, as though to prove the point of their deep connection. They begin to talk softly together before they both stop. They laugh again for a moment until my grandfather pulls her from where she is standing into his lap and kisses her soundly on the lips. The love between them in this moment is so profound; all we can do is stare in wonder and contentment as we have many times before. Then we hear Aunt Kate's husband clear his throat.
Grandma giggles; her cheeks pinken slightly. In all these years, she still blushes just a bit, only it isn't as profound as when she was younger. "Yes Garrett, was there something you needed?" Grandpa growls out at his son-in-law, clearly not pleased with the interruption.
"No Sir, just thought I would remind you that you are not alone before we had to get the garden hose." We all laugh as my grandfather and grandmother both groan at the memory of the day their children walked into the living room before Aunt Kate and Uncle Garrett were married. A story told often throughout the years.
It was the first year all of their children were out of the house. Everyone was gathering at grandma & grandpa's place for Memorial Day weekend. Though the spring college semester was over, Uncle JW and Mom were taking summer classes. Uncle Riley was a successful computer technician, hired several years ago by the best technology company in the state of Washington. Aunt Kate graduated a few years later and was working with a prominent business in Seattle when she met Uncle Garrett.
Every year since my grandparents were married, they would take the family to place flowers on grave plots throughout the state of Washington where family and friends have been laid to rest, including the adopted relatives. My grandparents would recall stories of each person memorialized. The only difference was Uncle Garrett joined them for the first time, much to the others' surprise. Aware of it being a family only tradition, the fact my grandparents invited him to join them was startling.
Uncle Garrett had spent many holidays with the family during the year and a half Aunt Kate dated him, but he was not allowed for the intimate family moments such as this. Since my aunt and uncles lived in Seattle, they decided to car pool in a luxury SUV. Thankfully, Uncle Garrett's parents owned a very successful GM dealership with all the amenities, including a rental company. They allowed him to borrow one from their rental lot for next to nothing. On the way there they talked about many things, including how this must be a very difficult year for their mother and father without any kids in the house.
They made it back to Forks in less than three hours; Uncle Garrett doesn't waste any time when his lead foot is in the driver's seat. They were chatting and laughing as they walked into the house heading toward the living room. My Mom was stopped short as she ran into Uncle Garrett with Aunt Kate to his right. "Hey! Why did you stop? I thought we were –", she stopped talking when she realized why Garrett and Kate were just standing there, speechless.
Uncle Garrett cleared his throat several times, clapped his hands, and even tried a loud whistle with his fingers between his lips, but nothing seemed to be breaking up the scene before them. Sitting, no, half-sitting and half laying on the couch, my grandparents were making out and practically mauling each other like two horny teenagers without parental supervision as hands roamed each other's body. My grandfather's shirt was open as my grandmother's hands moved to glide it from his shoulders.
Suddenly Uncle Garrett turned and headed outside. Not wanting to watch their parents and create a more permanent scar, they followed Garrett until they were standing on the porch and watched him. He went around the side of the house. They looked amongst each other, asking Aunt Kate what he was doing. She was about to go find out when he came around the corner holding something in his right hand. The snickers began as he walked past them. They could now clearly see what he was dragging past them. He walked back into the house and directly into the living room without saying a word. My mom, aunt, and two uncles right on his heel.
They watched in absolute amusement as their parents screeched, squealed, and protested while trying to fight off the sudden blast of water soaking them through and through. "ENOUGH!" My grandfather shouted! "What is the meaning of this?!" This only made the others burst into full on, belly wrenching laughter as they watched realization cross their parent's faces.
Next thing they knew, their mother was tucking herself behind their father while he pulled his shirt back on and began refastening the buttons. He cleared his throat, "What? Haven't you ever seen two people showing their love for each other?" He paused with his own amusement as my grandmother gave him a light smack on his bicep. He looked meaningfully at his children as they all turned beat red, a trait we all seem to have been cursed with from my grandmother.
Of course they knew why. There were far too many instances when one, or both of their parents walked in on them making out, but my mom, aunt and uncles will never forget the one and only time Uncle Riley was caught mid-summer with a girl in his bedroom. A lesson not only taught to the oldest sibling, but one they all suffered each year following. However, they did not wish to repeat Uncle Riley's torture. He was forced to speak at the first day of school assembly, including the students' parents, about the importance of teenage abstinence and the dangers of being careless.
It was the first year the school introduced the concept of caring for a baby while dealing with real life situations. They didn't get just a sack of flour either. My grandparents were able to find an affordable program through our church to provide the school with the latest in technology, computerized baby dolls made to simulate real babies. Each student had to care for one of these babies throughout the school year. However, it wasn't so simple.
The first day of school, the freshman class was paired off. Each female student was made to wear a nine-month, waterproof maternity belly for one full week, every day, and twenty-four hours a day; only allowed to remove it for fifteen minutes a day, for bathing. Their parents were to document each time and the duration their daughters went without it during the week. If they went more than 15 minutes, or took it off more than once, the parents called the teacher.
The male students were forced to simply wear the cheaper version nine-month maternity belly on the outside of their clothing throughout the school day the same week in order to better relate to the responsibility females have to endure.
The following week, they began parenthood. The students learned quickly they couldn't just ignore the life-like babies. The technology included a monitor that was downloaded at the end of each week. They were graded based on a program, which calculates any time they mistreated, or cared for the doll. The whole thing lasted their entire freshman year, including holidays and spring break. Thus began their desire for abstinence as teenagers.
My aunt and uncles were then brought out of their revelry, "Ah, I see our little fish mouths recall." Then he looked at Uncle Garrett, "You are not without fault, young man. Shall I remind you of the time –". Aunt Kate cut him off before he could take them down another turn on memory lane.
"Thank you father, but it will not be necessary." Her face was a slightly deeper shade of red after she finished.
My grandfather grasped my grandmother's hand as he began walking toward them. "Very well then. Now, I expect you to clean up the mess you have created and everything to be back to normal by the time your mother and I are finished with our nap." He raised his eyebrows suggestively. My grandmother giggled behind him. Groans were heard throughout. My grandfather had his signature smirk of victory. It was the same weekend Uncle Garrett proposed to Aunt Kate.
My grandmother surprises us with her next statement, "I miss that couch." My grandfather chuckles and pulls her back down for another kiss. Thankfully this is a brief one. "Besides, Katie, you cannot blame your father because you did look an awful lot like me on your wedding day. You were so beautiful," she looks at my mother, "as were you, Carlie."
While Aunt Kate looks like my grandmother's double, Uncle Riley looks like a spitting image of my grandfather. My great grandparents often told us how much the twins are a perfect combination of them. Uncle JW has all the facial features of my grandfather with our grandmother's auburn hair and chocolate eyes. My mother, Carly, has my grandmother's facial features with my grandfather's dark-brown, curly hair and blue eyes.
The room once again falls into scattered conversations. I watch my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents laughing, smiling, and simply enjoying their time together. My great aunts, great uncles, and blood great grandparents passed away many years ago; some from natural causes, some from job-related incidents, and others from unavoidable accidents. Fortunately, with the exception of my Great Grandpa Swan and Great Grandma Milas, they all lived long enough to see my mom, aunt, and uncles grow and get married.
The entire family still gathers for the Memorial Day tradition. Great Uncle Jasper lived long enough to see the birth of his namesake's children. Though the gathering places will alternate between households with each holiday, there is no doubt my maternal grandparents are the glue holding us together. Fortunately, when their time comes to join those we memorialize, we will remain strong and close because their never-ending love has not only been abundantly given to each of us, but it has also been taught through example. Although, their loss will be felt deeply for not only the family, but for all the lives they have touched.
"Jared, sweetie, could you gather the children for lunch?" My wife wraps her arms around my shoulders and leans down to peck my lips. "Also, Makenna should be awake from her nap soon. Please bring her downstairs too." She looks at me with her emerald-green eyes; I am as lost as ever. Her giggle breaks me from my trance. "Did you hear me, Honey?"
Smiling back at her, I pull her into my lap and give her a searing kiss. I pull away; she follows until she hears the laughter around us.
"I know that feeling well." My grandmother says between giggles. "I think it is a talent passed down through all the men of the Milas line." With those words, all the male descendants of my grandfather react with smirks and chests puffing out in pride. My face heats slightly with my inherited blush. "I've seen these reactions many times throughout the years, my dear."
"I think you're right, Mom." Aunt Jessica says. "It must be a talent. The men in this family sure do know how to leave their women longing." She looks across the room at my Uncle Riley with sparkling eyes. I laugh at the peacock pride of my uncle.
"Ha, ha, everyone. I'll take what I can get. If it means following in the steps of Grandpa Milas, I look forward to spending sixty-two years in wedded bliss with the love of my life." I kiss my Beth on the lips once more as the baby monitor notifies us of our daughter's tiny cooing sounds, letting us know she is awake. "Now, if you will all excuse me, I have some children to wrangle up." I help my wife to her feet and head for the stairs.
Before I reach the first step, my grandparents say in unison, "Dibs". I laugh as I walk upstairs. They love all of their grandchildren and great grandchildren equally, but are just like first time grandparents with each grandbaby.
Knowing Makenna will be all right for a few more minutes, I go to the kids' playroom and see my cousins Rachel, Esme, and Paul playing with the youngest of the family. From my grandparents, there are four married children, eight grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. Of the grandchildren, Esme, Rachel, and Paul are still teenagers, Billy, Sam, Rose, and myself are married with children of our own, and Lily is engaged to be married this coming September.
All the great grandchildren are under age six. Cousin Billy's children, Seth and Jane, are five and three. Cousin Sam's children, Ben and Bree, are three-year-old twins. My niece, Emily, is four and nephew, Collin, is two. My son, Austin, will be three next month and Makenna is four months old.
I walk in on quiet chaos and smile. Esme and Rachel do an excellent job keeping the kids from causing too much ruckus and still allowing the kids to have fun. Rachel, Esme, and even Paul love to babysit whenever possible. They just love spending time with the youngest family members. The children all love the teenagers.
"I hate to break up the fun, but it's time for lunch. Clean up and put things away before you head downstairs."
A chorus of "okays" and "we knows" greet me.
I laugh lightly, "Okay then, you have five minutes. Make sure you thank Grandma and Grandpa Milas for letting you play with their toys." I see several eye rolls and take it as my cue to get my baby girl.
Walking into her room, I see her trying to roll over from her back to her tummy and stand at the doorway for a bit to watch. She gives up trying to rollover and just starts playing with her own hands, smiling and laughing softly. Suddenly, the kids come bursting out of the playroom with Rachel shushing them. "Sorry Jared."
"It's okay. She's already awake." Rachel nods and follows the children downstairs. I turn back to my little angel and head toward her crib.
She sees me approach and starts babbling. "Dah… Dah." She hasn't gotten to the point of saying dada yet, but she recognizes each of her parents and says "Dah… Dah", or "Muh… Muh".
"Hey there, Princess." Her coos urge me on. "Are you ready to see your Great Grandma and Great Grandpa?" She coos some more and reaches her arms out toward me as though she understands, but I know she is just wanting me to pick her up, which I am glad to do. Once I have her nestled against my chest, her hands reach for my face. She giggles when I push out a breath of air on each of her palms. Pulling her hands down, I start talking with her again as I head out of the room. "Today is your Great Grandpa's birthday, so make sure you give him plenty of hugs and kisses."
She coos back at me again as we step into the dining room. The children's table is in the kitchen with Esme, Rachel, and Paul. There is a highchair sitting at the corner of the table between my grandfather at the head of the table and my grandmother to his right, who is across from the empty chair for me with my wife to the left. I go to put Makenna in the highchair as my grandfather stands and reaches for my daughter.
"There's my Kenna," he says. My daughter laughs, reaches for him, and begins cooing. "Let's have some lunch, little one." When she is in his strong arms, he takes a seat, places her in his lap, and nods to the rest of the family.
There is an open space between the kitchen and the dining room and the younger children follow the lead of their idols, bowing their heads and clasping their hands as they wait. Once we see the children are ready, the rest of us follow suit and wait for the head of the family to lead us in prayer.
My grandfather grasps Makenna's tiny hands into his large, right hand as he has done with all the little ones at one time, or another. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. [1a] He gives food to every creature. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. [1b]
"Thank you, Lord for granting me another year of life, for my family and friends, the love you have given us, the gifts you have granted us, and another beautiful day. May my family continue to grow in your knowledge and love, always remembering our creator in everything we do and all our gifts," he pauses; we all know this is where we are meant to join.
"Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen." Conversation picks up afterward, food begins to pass around, and Mekenna is placed into her highchair. When grandpa is talking with the rest of the family, grandma is feeding and talking with their Kenna. Each time my grandparents switch their attentions, it is as if they never left the conversation and still easily maintain my daughter's attention.
When the children are all finished eating and Makenna is no longer interested in consuming her food, grandpa removes her from the high chair and heads to the living room with the rest of his younger grandchildren and great grandchildren. Knowing we will not let her cleanup, Grandma follows. Since my great grandparents were in their late sixties, my parents, aunts, uncles, and some of my cousins took charge of the after dinner duties. When I was twelve, fifteen years ago, I began to help. Esme, Rachel, and Paul were the young children then. Cousin Lily, my sister, and I were the cool cousins then.
"Jared, could you bring me a burp cloth please?" I take the diaper bag out to the living room where my grandmother is smiling down at a fussy Makenna. "Thank you, Cuddle Bear." I place a burp cloth on her left shoulder and give her a kiss on the cheek.
"Anytime Maymah." She smiles broadly at the memory of my childhood name for her and pats my cheek.
"All grown up with two kids of your own now, I love you, baby boy." Kissing my cheek, she places her youngest grandchild on her shoulder and begins rocking gently while switching between rubbing and patting Makenna's back. A smile graces her beautiful face as she watches her husband play with their grandchildren.
Half an hour later, the dining room and kitchen cleanup is finished. We are all gathered in the living room once again. The youngest children are sprawled out fast asleep, some on the floor and others in a parent's lap, or arms. Everyone is paired together with his or her partner, chatting and enjoying the temporary peace. On the loveseat, my daughter is draped across her great grandfather's chest with her with head nestled in the crook of his neck; her great grandmother tucked into their side, rubbing her back.
The rest of the day is spent joking, laughing, reminiscing, and just enjoying our time together. Eventually, everyone says their goodbyes for the evening and go our separate ways. Beth and I hang back for a few minutes.
Shuffling Austin in my arms, I remind my grandparents we will see them first thing in the morning to pick them up for church. We only live two houses down from them. "Yes dear." My grandmother says before hugging me with a kiss on the cheek, followed by a kiss to Austin's forehead while grandpa hugs Beth, kissing her cheek and his great granddaughter's cheek. We switch places and bid them goodnight.
The next morning, Beth is running behind getting Austin ready because he has been grumpy and difficult. "Beth, I'm going to pick up my grandparents while you finish getting Austin ready. I'm sure they are ready and waiting."
"Okay, Stud. We'll be ready by the time you return. I love you."
I walk up my grandparent's porch stairs, noticing the morning paper is still there. Picking up the newspaper, I realize they may not be quite ready yet either. I open the storm door and knock on the front door. After a couple of minutes, I knock again. When there still isn't an answer a minute later, I begin to worry and place the rarely used house key they gave me into the lock.
Opening the door, I call out to them. "Grams?… Gramps?... Hello?... It's Jared." I reach the kitchen. The coffee pot is still full from the delay brew timer and two empty coffee cups sitting beside it. Something isn't right. Panic sets in and I rush from the kitchen up the stairs. I see only one door closed and head straight for their room. Knocking on the door, I try again. "Grams? Gramps? It's Jared. Are you ready for church?"
When there is no answer and not even the sound of movement, I open the door and peer inside. Scanning the room from the cracked doorway, I see the en suite bathroom is also wide open. When my eyes land on their bed, I see them curled up there. Grandpa is lying mostly on his back, but angled toward my grandmother with his head resting atop her head; his right arm wrapped around her shoulders. Her head is resting on his right shoulder with her right hand over his heart under his left hand gently grasping hers. The covers are pulled up to mid chest. They both have a happy, peaceful look on their face, lips turned up in a smile.
As I approach their bed, my heart nearly stops in dread. Shaking my head, my right trembling hand reaches for their joined hands. A sob escapes my lips when I am met with the cool skin of both my grandparents. My head drops as a tear escapes and splashes upon my grandmother's hand, followed immediately by another wet drop falling upon my grandfather's hand.
I spend a few minutes mourning the loss of two of the best people I have ever known. They loved with their whole heart and gave as much. However, these things will not be lost because they not only taught their children and grandchildren, but they also taught others through their good deeds and caring.
My grandparents have spent their life together helping the less fortunate get back on their feet with the free community programs they set up throughout the state of Washington. These programs included classes to teach how to care for oneself, establish and follow a budget, build a savings account, pay off debt, and even help find a job; helping to create a noticeable decrease in the homeless rates throughout the state. They also established scholarships and work-study programs to help get started with a college education. Once they proved the desire to get a college degree, these programs helped them find and apply to other scholarships and grants available to help them finish.
The programs only worked if the individuals were willing to put in the effort on their part. The community programs were also funded through the Swan-Whitlock Betterment Foundation, named after the two men who helped a young boy, my grandfather, reach his dreams.
A few minutes later, I send a quick text to my wife, letting her know I will be there soon. Then I call my mother because I don't know what I should do next. "Hi, Cuddle Bear, shouldn't you be heading to church this morning?"
I take a shuddering breath in, "Mom".
"Jared, honey, what is it? What's wrong? Are Beth and the kids okay?" Choked up, I try to get myself together. When I don't speak right away, "Baby, you're scaring me. Please tell me what is wrong."
Taking a deep, calming breath, "Beth and the kids are fine. It is grandma and grandpa… I came to pick them up for church this morning, but they were still in bed." Another deep breath, "When I touched their hands, they were cold. Mom, they… they're gone." I let the news sink in while I work on trying to keep from breaking down again. "What should I do, Mom? What should I do?" I whisper at the end. When there is no answer, "Mom? Are you there?"
I hear my father in the background. "Carly, baby, what's wrong?... Charlotte, sweetie, what happened?" A sob comes through the phone. I hear some shuffling before my dad is speaking with me. "Hello? Who's there?"
"Dad, it's Jared."
"What happened, Son? Your mom is in tears."
"It's grandma and grandpa. They're gone, Dad." I repeat what I told my mother. "Dad, what should I do?"
"You've already done it, Son. They kept a copy of their will in your grandfather's gun safe. You know the combination, right?"
"Okay. Call Beth and the pastor. Then, get the will and call the funeral home listed. Let them know what happened. Your mother and I will pick up Beth and the kids. We will take them to church and meet you afterward."
"But, Dad –"
"No, Son. You know, as well as I do, this is what they would want. I need you to be at the house to greet the necessary people. Call your Uncle JW, Uncle Riley, and Aunt Kate in half an hour when they will be getting home. And, Son?"
"Use the extra time to pray. The rest will come together after you call the funeral home. Your grandparents already made the necessary arrangements many years ago. I love you, Jared. We'll see you soon."
"I love you too, Dad."
As soon as I hang up, I call my wife to give her the news. "Riley, honey, will you be okay? Do I need to be there with you?"
"No, my love, I will be okay. I will be busy for a while with phone calls. Then, I will be taking my father's advice and praying. I need you to be there for our children and my mother right now."
After finding their will and making the necessary phone calls, an hour has passed. I hear the front door open and close. Raising my head, I see Rose enter the living room. My sister and I have always had a tight bond. I stand up and open my arms. She rushes to me and we embrace, letting our tears flow. A few minutes later, a knock interrupts our moment. I go to the door and let the uniformed strangers inside, directing them to my grandparent's room.
As morbid as it sounds, I had taken a picture before I made any phone calls and after I found their will. I wanted to remember the happy and peaceful look on their faces and wanted my family to see how they left this world, no pain, no regret, just happy and content.
Two days later, we are once again gathered in my grandparent's living room, this time in a less than desirable gathering surrounded by people paying their respects. The house is packed full. On the television screen is the DVD we made for our grandparents on their 62nd Anniversary, a collage of photos from his and her life from birth through their 92nd and 95th year. The pictures included their children, grandchildren, parents, as well as the adopted aunts, uncles, and cousins. The ones we treasured the most were of the two of them together with the love radiating off them. Just looking at images, you could practically feel the love pouring from them.
I head up to my grandparent's bedroom for some time away from the large crowd. When I walk up to the other side of the bed from where I found them, I see something lying on the floor. I lean down to pick it up. It is a letter written in my grandmother's script.
January 30th, 2076
I didn't ask for it to be over
But then again
I didn't ask for it to begin
For that's the way it is with Life
As some of the most beautiful days
Come completely by chance
But even the most beautiful days
Eventually have their sunset 
Dearest loved ones,
These words by Javan sum up the perfect day we had with our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Your father's/grandfather's and my life may have had a difficult beginning, but the day we found each other reflects Javan's statement: "I didn't ask for it to begin", but we are certainly grateful it did.
Sometimes God puts us on a path we do not think we are ready to travel. However, if we listen with open hearts and follow His lead, we may just find what we did not know to ask of Him. For, God knows our heart and our desires better than we do.
This is how we found each other and we truly believe it is how each of you found your partner. It is through love God gave His all. With God's love, we will pull through our most troubling times.
Hold on to love… the love in your heart, and the love from Him. God does not promise a life without pain, or trials, but He does promise through His unyielding love He will be with us through the good times and the bad. Therefore, keep Him close to your hearts, dear ones, by keeping your hope in His unfailing love.
"There is no other way to claim God's promises than to trust and obey." 
If not for our love and faith in Him, we truly believe we would not have been as blessed as we have in this life. When the day comes for Him to call us home, we know we have fulfilled our purpose on this Earth because you have been left in good hands… God's. We know we have taught and guided you to love and trust in Him as we do. We will live with Him in His kingdom with peace, love, and everlasting joy, knowing you have been left in His capable hands.
One day we will no longer be around. When this time comes, we know you will be there for each other as God has been there for you. Take care of and look out for each other.
For many years now, following each gathering with our family and loved ones, we have written a letter much like this. Some surmise our day. Others follow this format, giving you encouragement, hope, and reminders of whom your heart truly belongs. For we have love here, but the purest and truest love we will ever know comes from our Lord.
No more tears beyond the gate.
We love each of you with our whole heart as He taught us…
Forever and Always,
Demetri & Bella
(Father & Mother, Grandfather & Grandmother)
The tears that have been welling up in my eyes begin falling down my cheeks and into my lap. My hand shakes slightly. I go to lay the letter on the bedside table when my eyes fall onto the items lying there. Beneath my grandfather's reading glasses are their Bible and a few folders. I pick up the Bible and lay it on the bed to my right before picking up the top folder. It isn't exactly thick, but it definitely contains many sheets of paper. All the pages are on the left and the first is dated New Year's Day.
I pull out the paper and flip through, noticing the dates were following each gathering they had with all their children's, or grandchildren's families, or just one of the families. There has to be at least fifty, or sixty sheets in this folder, all dated within the past year. Seeing the other folders were much thicker, I picked up the next one. It was about as thick as half a ream of computer paper, so at least two hundred and fifty pages. The top one on the right is from Christmas Day one year ago. The first sheet on the left is from Memorial Day, ten years ago.
I went through the remaining two in much the same manner, looking at the first date and the last within the folder. They went all the way back to my great grandfather's sixty-fifth birthday. I wasn't even a gleam in my parent's eye, but my sister was due to arrive seven months later. She wasn't the first grandchild, but my uncle JW also got married in October the same year.
Replacing everything before I inform the remainder of the family, I see something sticking out of the Bible as a bookmarker. Opening to this spot, I see the marker is actually a picture. As I look upon it, my tears become a constant, slow stream.
The photo is the last taken with the entire family, all thirty-one of us. It was taken the day Makenna was baptized; she was only two weeks old at the time. I didn't even know they had this, but I'm sure Beth gave it to them. Knowing my wife and my grandmother, I flip it over and sure enough, written on the back is the date with everyone's names and ages in Beth's scrip, but in the lower right-hand corner in my grandfather's less than legible handwriting is a passage.
With the Bible in my hand, I realize it is already open to that section. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." 
I allow one last drop to fall from my eyes because I know, even though I will miss them, my grandparents are happy with no more pain and no more worries. They will forever be wrapped in warmth and love within God's arms, enjoying forever in the kingdom of Heaven. I let my grandmother's words echo through my mind:
No more tears beyond the gate.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ EBtG ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
AN – I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Sorry there wasn't a lot of conversation, but the original dream was really about a family member quietly reflecting and observing. It really did take an unplanned direction, but honestly, I feel it turned out well. :D I know Demetri & Bella's passing is much like it was from The Notebook, but I just couldn't bear to have one die before the other, or even choose which would go before the other. ;) Besides this, what did you think?
Reviews are like a loving hug. :D … … … I'd also be interested to learn if this story was recommended to you and where, or from whom. Even if you just happened to come across it, I'd be interested to know. Thank you for reading.
I hope you enjoyed this, especially abbymickey24 since the original one-shot was written for her.
Also, yes, I used Javan in Waterfall Beginnings also, but he is the only poet I really know because someone gave me one of his books many years ago and I just connected & understood his poems.
References listed in brackets throughout the story are listed below:
[1a] Bible – Psalm 136:1-4, [1b] Psalm 147:9-11
 "Something to Someone" book by Javan (© 1984)
 Bible – Isaiah 11:55
 Bible – Revelation 21:4