by Kactus Berry
Telling a daughter, of a military mother, about her dying during the course of duty.
Ray held the pendant tightly in the palm of his hand. Gripping it tightly, he felt pain as the edges pierced into his sweating skin. As the memories of his fiancée, Sandra, flooded his mind, and now drowning in much more than his sorrows, he gripped it even tighter. Her daughter, Magen, who stood beside him innocently wondering why he was so sad, looked up at him.
“What’s the matter?” she kindly asked.
His throat went dry and felt as if he’d swallowed cotton. How could he tell this little girl that her mother made the ultimate sacrifice for God and country? He started to speak but choked and had to clear his throat. “Aunt Lisa will be here in a few minutes,” he started, “would you go and get cleaned up for me?”
She nodded and hurried off to the bathroom.
His eyes started to glisten and his chest swelled as the turmoil boiled within him. “Sandra was only twenty-four!” he thought to himself, “Not now! How can this happen now?”
Magen returned a few minutes later. Nicely attired in the dress he laid out for her. She had put on some of her mothers perfume, which she had never done before. She walked over to him, still concerned, and hugged him as best she could with her little arms. He smelt the perfume. One whiff was all it took – a scent of despair. It took all his might to keep from breaking down. Yet, he realized that he had to tell her.
“Megan?” he gently said as he sat on the couch and patted the cushion, motioning her to sit beside him. She sat down and said nothing. “I have to tell you something about Mom,” he started. There was a short silence as he desperately searched for the words that struggled to come. He looked at her and noticed that she was sensing the horror that he was about to tell her. She blushed and reddened while her tears matched those of his. “You know that Mom is in the Army, right?” he asked. Another pause but Megan said nothing.
He wondered if he could manage this; he wondered if she could understand. “Well,” he started, “Mom had to go away to help some people living in the desert, remember?” He stopped and pondered, “Am I doing this right? Will she understand what’s happened?” He took her hand and rubbed it within his. Megan’s face grew redder yet, as the corners of her mouth turned down and she started to weep. He reached over and grabbed her firmly and held her tight.
“Where is Mommy?” she earnestly asked, “I miss her!”
"I know, sweetheart,” he replied quickly, “I miss her, too. But sometimes accidents happen and Mom was in an accident. She was in a helicopter, like an airplane, and something happened and there was in an accident.” He started to rock her back and forth. “It’s ok to cry,” he whispered.
She did start crying, but quietly and softly. They both sat there and he held her and rocked her. After several minutes the doorbell rang. He got up and answered the door. It was Lisa, Sandra’s sister. They both stood at the threshold looking at each other.
“Did you tell her?” she finally asked.
“Sort of, but not very well, I don’t think.”
“Did you tell her every thing?” she asked more firmly.
“No Lisa!” he staunchly replied, “Do you have to take her now? We just found out about all this today!”
“Listen, Ray, I know how you feel, but if you and Sandra had been married, well maybe this wouldn’t have to happened.”
“You don’t have to tell me about custody...”
“Listen,” she interrupted, “I’m on your side. I know how you must feel. But Megan’s biological dad now has legal custody. I don’t want to give her over to that ‘dead beat’ any more then you do.” She stopped and looked firmly at Ray. “We’ll work it out. I know how much you love Magen.”
“But now! Today!” he barked. “She doesn’t even really know what happened. Hell, I don’t really know what happened! And now you are going to haul her off to go live with virtual strangers! People she doesn’t even know!” His face grew deep red with remorse and anger.
Lisa said nothing, but he could see in her face sympathy for him. He quieted down in defeat and stepped back for her to come into the house.
Lisa quietly walked into the room. “Hi, sweetie!”
“Aunt Lisa!” Magen shouted and ran into her with outreached arms in an all-embracing hug.
“We’re going to go visit grandma for a while and then you get to meet your daddy,” Lisa smiled.
“But Ray’s my daddy,” Magen gently uttered.
“Your other daddy,” Lisa replied.
Magen, confused, just looked at her. Ray stood at the door with arms folded and one hand covering his mouth.
Lisa looked over to Ray, “Don’t worry Ray, I’ll take care of everything. We’ll work this all out, ok?”
Ray nodded and handed Lisa a small backpack full of Megan’s clothing. They moved toward the door and Ray stopped as Lisa and Magen started to leave. Magen turned around.
“Aren’t you coming with us, Ray?” Magen asked.
“No honey,” he said squatting down, “You go on with Aunt Lisa. I’ll see you soon.”
“But I don’t want to leave you behind, specially since you're missing Mommy, too.”
Almost in tears, Ray said, “You’ll always be with me, even if your not here. Just like Mom, we will always be together, no matter where we are.”
“But I don’t want to leave you behind, Daddy!”
Ray felt shock since she had never called him ‘Daddy’ before.
“I love you!” she finally cried.
“I love you, too” he answered back, “and knowing that you love me, I will never be left behind."