He stumbled a bit as he walked between the tombstones. He put one hand atop one monument, then took a long step, reaching out with his arm to touch the next one.
He moved until he found the right one. The one he wanted.
“This is it! This is what I want for her. I think she’s going to like this one.” He said. His voice rolling out the words with a thick, deep Cajun accent. His gray hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He’s wearing a pair of jeans, the cuffs brush against the grass as he walks.
He drove up in an old Ford truck, one of the tail-lights was broken. It hadn’t been washed since Ford built it.
He stood in the middle of a hundred tombstones. He was there to buy a monument, a tombstone.
A lot of decisions. So many choices. He was flying solo today.
He kicks at the ground with his left foot.
Herman is hurting.
“I lost her in December. She got cancer. Fought it with everything she had. It wasn’t enough. She just wore out. Didn’t make Christmas.” His sentences are short, exploding like gunfire as he talked.
“I want a nice stone for her. Something for both of us. When it’s my time, I’ll be lying right there with her. Right there by her side.” His tears were filling his eyes. “She was everything I ever had. She took my life with her when she died.”
He reached into his pocket, pulling out a piece of folded paper. Carefully, he unfolds it. He holds it like a kid would hold a treasure map. He shows it to me.
On the paper, he had drawn out what he wanted the stone to say. It’s a crude, hand-drawn sketch. He drew it himself, probably sitting at the breakfast table across from an empty chair.
It shows what’s in his heart.
And that counts more than anything right now.
His name, his birth date. Her name, her birthday and a December death date.
“I want to say something else on the front. I want it to say something she’d like. I don’t know what to put down. I never asked her what she wanted.”
He’s standing in front of a ton of gray granite, six feet wide, three feet high. A floor sample.
There’s an empty vase on either side. “That’s for the flowers?” he asks.
Carved deep on the front side, there’s two people holding hands, looking into the sun . Two wedding rings are cut into the stone just below. He reaches down and rubs the two overlapped wedding rings. The stone is cold to touch, but warm in what it shows.”
“I worked in the Merchant Marine. I was gone all the time. Nine months at sea, then back home for sixty days, sometimes less. I didn’t see the kids grow up. I missed so much. Now I’m missing everything.”
The money he paid was nothing compared to the real cost he’s paying.
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