Wednesday, November 24, 2010


With the holidays upon us I will be posting a short story during Thanksgiving Day and during Christmas week I will also be posting a story a day from various writers.

The story today is written by my friend, Beth Hill. She writes stories with a lot of emotional impact and I thoroughly enjoy reading her short stories. I hope you will too.

Gentle. Her hands were so gentle as she bathed him. Washing days-old, weeks-old, grime from his body. Washing, too, the burdens he’d carried for nearly sixty years. The pains of his broken body. The anguish of his brilliant mind.

She never spoke. Never whispered. Never cried.

She turned him gently, lifted his fingers, his hands, his arms. Leaving no part untouched or unwashed. She gave his body the attention he’d not allowed her in life. Not because he’d minded the attention. But because he was never with her long enough to satisfy her curiosity, her need to discover the himness of him.

I helped her move him, though his weight was less than I expected. He’d always seemed a big man to me. But that was mere memory from a child’s eyes. Though great in reputation, he was an ordinary man in build.

And yet, she treated him as if he were large in every way. To her, perhaps he was. A giant of a man in her world. A giant she’d never fully known. A giant she’d had to give up way too soon.

We dressed him in his uniform. She would have wanted to do it without my help, but she was a realist. We worked in silent unison, making sure he was perfectly turned out for his final appearance.

Other officers would pass by, looking at him, wondering what had made him the leader he was. Subordinates would salute, admiring his courage one last time. The President would offer his respects.

He wouldn’t accept looking anything less than faultless.

And she would stand by his side the while, doing her duty as he’d done his for so many years.

And no one would know the grief that had racked her when she’d finally faced it. Faced that he was gone. Faced the pitiless truth that an unseen enemy had sneaked past his defenses, had set up camp within his body, had destroyed him from within while he’d been so ably defending his country in a desert far from home and from her.

I watched as my mother brushed the hair from his brow one final time. As she kissed his lips, gently. So gently. As she closed her eyes while the attendants arranged him in the casket.

I tried to be thankful, this last week of November. Tried to list the blessings of having had this man as my example, my mentor, my friend.

But I’d lost the ability to thank God for anything this week.

I’d remember to be thankful again. Soon. But for today, today I would grieve as only a son can. Today I would stand before a grateful nation and accept their condolences.

Today I would speak the words that showed the world what I thought of my father.

Words he’d never hear.

Words I should have told him last week and last year and all the weeks and years before.

Words of thanksgiving that needed no holiday to be spoken.

She slipped her hand into mine. And squeezed. Gently.

“He knew, Thomas,” she said. “He always knew.” Her fingertips brushed the casket as the men rolled it past. Then she lifted her face to mine. “Our love was his strength. It freed him to be the man he was destined to be, fueled his steps and his thoughts and his dreams. He loved me. He admired you. And now we say our public goodbyes. As is fitting for his family.”

“Mom . . . ”

She shook her head. And released my hand.

And we followed his lead, though once again we could not follow him into battle. He would go first, as was his way. And we’d remain behind. But we wouldn’t forget. We’d never forgotten him while he was away.

I’d live as he’d taught me to, with honor and strength. And I’d think of him where he was, no longer in a desert, but in a strange land nonetheless. And soon I’d be smiling, imagining what he was doing. Just as I’d done as a child picturing him in foreign places.

And I’d be thankful for having known him, for having been touched by him, for having been loved by him.

Not always gently, but well and completely.

And I would ask God to watch over him there in his final duty station, knowing that He would. That He would make sure he knew I loved him. Knew I would be the man he raised me to be. That I would be the legacy he deserved.

That I would love fiercely.

Act wisely.

And walk boldly into both battle and peace. As he had taught me.

As he had done.


Beth Hill is a Freelance fiction editor. She loves the written word, the ability we have to create worlds and emotions with well-chosen phrases. Beth is firmly convinced that all writers can touch their readers, that they can craft marvelous stories to entertain and satisfy those readers. The articles at The Editor’s Blog are intended to help writers create the best stories they can, no matter where they are on their career path.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome back to OVER COFFEE. For you I have plenty of fountain drinks. :-)

Beth, this is a lovely story. It brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jill Lynn said...

Beth, this is astounding. So moving. So bittersweet. So wonderful.

Judi Fennell said...

Beth, this is utterly mesmerizing. I'm sitting here with a throat choked with a emotion and tears in my eyes. Beautiful, just beautiful. And bittersweet.

Kat Sheridan said...

I'm rushing around today, a million things to do in preparation for Thanksgiving, fretting over cleaning and dishes and cooking. And yet, you've made me pause, made me remember the the things that are TRULY important, and for which we should TRULY be grateful. I have a repairman in the kitchen, a howling dog, and visitors nearly at my door, and I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. Thank you, Beth, for a most beautiful story, and for reminding us that although the heart of this country was founded by those seeking freedom, that freedom isn't free.

Mason Canyon said...

What a wonderful story. It's hard to give the praise it deserves for the tears in my eyes.

Sia and Beth, hope you both have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks for the blogging friendship and the reminder how precious family, life and freedom are.

Thoughts in Progress

Helen Ginger said...

Oh gracious, that made me cry.

readwriteandedit said...

Sia, thanks for letting me be part of the holiday here at Over Coffee.

I'm glad y'all liked this. I was looking for something different from "over the river and through the woods" but something equally touching. We do indeed have so much to be thankful for.

Mason, I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful as well.

A meaningful and uplifting holiday to you all.


readwriteandedit said...

Sia, I love the photo you found! Perfect.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia and Beth .. that was a heart rending post - I can see it exactly .. and Beth your descriptions are wonderful .. his mother's strength ... as women seem absolutely able to do - with complete fortitude.

Thank you - it is appropriate for this week .. Thanksgiving for all who have gone and all who are here .. I hope you can both enjoy your families' times .. Hilary

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hilary, thank you sweetie!

I've always thought we should be thankful for our blessings all year but at this time of the year. Perhaps having day like Thanksgiving is a good day to take the time and look around our family table filled with friends and family, remember those who have passed on and rejoice over those that remain. I'm so thankful for the roof over my head, food on my table and enough money to pay the bills.

I'm also thankful for the many cyber friends that make my life richer.

Here's wishing you and yours the very best during the holidays!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thanks, Beth. It seemed appropriate. I couldn't get the other to load, but I was happy how it turned out. :-)

Thank you Mason. You're a special one! Enjoy you holidays!

aries18 said...

This story fit the day and the times perfectly. It brought tears to my eyes for the people in the story and the families around the world sharing the same feelings.

I know I've told you before but once again, I have to say, you do great work!

Sia, what a great idea to have these great stories on your blog. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.

VA said...

Beth, it is a deep sigh that escapes me after reading this. So poignant. Thank you.