Healing from Grief

If Ashes Were Wishes
By: Bree T. Donovan

Jenny felt an incredible pain in her chest. She was sleeping, dreaming. The projector of her subconscious was running a film, and even though she was not enjoying the show, she was not able to leave the theatre. She was both the observer and the participant of the activities. As the dream sucked her deeper into her own mind, the last little bits of the conscious world fell away. She was now fully engulfed by the ephemeral world of sleep.

Jenny entered a room where her favorite singer was dressed rather formally in a black tuxedo. She caught her breath, incredulous at being so close to the famous man. Oddly, he was unaware of her presence, but singing to no one but her. It was a song she had never heard before. As she listened to the emotion filled lyrics her heart constricted, and a silent sob caught in her throat. His voice took on the most painful and passionate tone as he sang the words; “You will be the last thought I have upon my death.”

Jenny could no longer stay in the room. If she let the feelings that were building inside reach their crescendo, she would never be able to stop the din inside her head, or the powerful ache wrenching her heart.
“Finn!” she thought frantically. Jenny ran from the room, leaving the singer and his melancholy music behind. She was panicked to find her Finn, her love. The singer’s words made it imperative that she find her beloved. She could not suppress the urgent need to get to him. As Jenny left the dark room and the singer, she was immediately cast out into the brilliant sunlight. She had to shield her eyes from the stinging glare. It was a warm summer day. She found herself by a pool. She noted the clear blueness of the water, how it was so deceptive. The pool was meant to give off the aura of the crisp, blue cleanness of a stream, or the ocean off the Florida coast. The natural feeling the pool was supposed to evoke was in direct contrast to the means by which it sustained its cleanliness. Jenny thought of all the chemicals swirling around in the water. She looked at the people; some with deep tans, some red as Jersey tomatoes, not even realizing how much pain they would be in later from their lack of sun block. Still others sported wide brimmed hats with bright white streaks running the length of their noses.

She stumbled around in a frenzy. Finn could not be here, he did not like public pools. He thought them to be, “the gathering place for all of people’s sweat, and noise. People must always have noise about them so they don’t have to hear what little they have goin’ on in their minds.” Jenny would laugh at his unabashed comments. Finn was the only person she knew who truly enjoyed life. He could find the humor in any situation, yet he seemed terrified to be in such a location. She had suspected his discomfort had something to do with his fear of being practically naked in public. He never wore shorts, even on the hottest of July days. His sister had told Jenny that underneath Finn’s sunny disposition, there was a great sorrow originating from his father’s rejection. Finn was a diabetic. His disease made him, (his father’s only son), “a bitter disappointment.” His father constantly wondered out loud why God had given him a “defective son”. When Finn’s sister had shared this with Jenny they both had to wipe the tears from their eyes. How could someone hurt anyone as good as Finn, especially his own father?

Maybe that was why Finn always seemed to know with a depth that no one else did, the ugly secret Jenny carried inside about her own father. Finn never asked her what it was, and she had never told him, but somehow he knew. She felt his understanding and acceptance begin to smooth over the dark and dirty feelings inside her soul.

She ran in another direction now and came upon a group of people clad in bathing suits participating in an outdoor exercise class. When she reached them, the 20 or so men and women were hoisting their asses in the air, while their muscle bearing instructor commanded “S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E!” Jenny looked on with sick amusement. It was as if she was on another planet, one in which the inhabitants acknowledged only the existence of their physical beings, not their spirit-their souls. They were constantly exercising, or was it exorcising to purge themselves of unwanted flesh and depth.

Jenny ran up a lengthy set of stairs which was also outdoors in the same hot poolside location. As she pushed her legs forward up each step, it seemed she still had such a long way to go to reach the top. Sweat dripped from her hair, sliding down to her lips, the taste of salt mixed with shampoo. When she finally reached the top, she was out of breath and desperately needing a drink of water. Her mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. A woman was standing at the top of the stairs. She looked like Madonna, (the singer, not the mother of Jesus). Jenny silently observed how much she disliked Madonna, (the singer, not the mother of Jesus), and instantly disliked this woman with her low-cut swim suit and over processed blonde hair. The woman simply looked at Jenny with disdain. It was obvious the sophisticated woman felt herself superior to the young girl.
Jenny suddenly felt inadequate. Where was Finn? She knew that if he were here, they would have a good laugh over this urbane woman. Finn would have said something about her breasts being able to substitute for life preservers if she were ever drowning.

Jenny was suddenly once again in the dim, wood paneled house where she had found the singer. She crazily opened door after door lining the winding, shadowy hallway hoping Finn would be in one of those rooms. When she did find him, he would proffer his devilish grin and inquire, “What took you so long my love?” The singer’s words resonated in her ears, “I will love you forever. You will be the last thought I have upon my death.” A loud scream pierced the quiet of the room. Her lungs seemed as if they would burst from lack of air, the sob now choking her. She knew where Finn was. Finn was dead!

Jenny bolted upright in her bed. The tears streaming down her face were a release. The sob that had been trapped in her throat had now found a way of escape. Her chest was heavy with the realization that she would not see Finn until her own death. She cried at the frustration of the finality of death. No matter how many doors you open, the diseased will not be there. She decided she might as well get out of bed, although she treasured being able to sleep in on a Sunday morning, she knew it would be a fruitless endeavor to try to go back to sleep. She did not want to go return to that sinister place.

After her ritual morning walk, Jenny could not stay in her apartment. She could not look at the picture that resided on her coffee table, that of Finn, beautiful, young and smiling. The photo had perfectly captured his true spirit. It broke her heart to look at it now. She decided to go out for a cup of coffee, then to her office. Certainly being in her office, the place where she spent most of her waking hours would snap her back into reality and help ease the swelling of her heart.

She got into her car. As she drove to the Dunkin Donuts, she was aware of her hands on the steering wheel, but it seemed to her she could let go at any moment and the car would continue to propel itself, taking her where she needed to be. She switched on the radio in an attempt to shake her unearthly feeling. She was greeted by the voice of John Lennon singing, “Strawberry Fields”. He was singing how, “It’s all a dream- eeee -em.” Jenny laughed somehow comforted by this.

She came to the stoplight at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, and saw it once again, for the millionth time she supposed. The empty lot that had once housed the Photo-Drive-Thru that she had worked at so many years ago- the place where she had first met Finn. On this bitter winter’s day, she pictured the lot covered with tall grass, green with spring; dandy lions and pussy willows growing rampant. She remembered how as a child, she and her friends used to call those willows, “Wish-ies.” She would blow on them, making a wish as the willow broke apart with the power of her breath, and scatter to the wind, taking her wish to the proper place.

When Finn had died, his sister had given her half of his ashes, a pitiful substitute for his gift to her, half of his soul. The remaining ashes would stay in Ireland, his homeland. Jenny had told no one about that honor. All alone she had taken his ashes down to the river, where they used to sit and talk, and dream. She cast them like a willow to the wind. As the dust of her lover took to the air she said “goodbye” and made a wish, “Don’t leave me behind, my love.”

The radio was now playing the end of the song, the infamous; “I âÂ?¦.BuryâÂ?¦.Paul.” “Bury.” She considered. “Bury the dead in a field, a strawberry field.” She turned her car in the opposite direction, and drove down to the river. When she arrived, she got out and walked along the concrete path beside the water. This water was murky and muddy, not like the blue pool water in her dream, but although this water was thick and dirty, she felt comforted, knowing that Finn was here. She had not come to another closed door. She had found him finally. She realized now that she had never really lost him. He was, “Here, There, and Everywhere.”

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