As Henry stood in the cold January rain he had no comprehension of the world that morning. The hushed voices did not register as people spoke quietly behind him. The rain flowing down his face gave no feeling as it mixed with his warm tears hidden by the rain's wetness. But those around him knew the terrible pain within him, as he stood looking at the last resting place of his beloved wife of 48 years, Rose.
Finally, his son's voice intruded into the dark place where he had withdrawn as the final words were spoken. "Dad, we must go. The rain has soaked your clothes and you have begun to tremble." Henry had not felt the cold or heard any voices as he stood in the winter air. He felt deep sadness in his dark place; he only wanted to be with Rose, no matter where she was. But, he knew that was not possible.
He moved close to the polished wooden place she rested and placed his hand upon its smooth surface. His head hung low as more tears ran uncontrollably down his face. He felt the strong arm of his son around his shoulder, "Dad, she is now without pain and in the hands of her Lord. You know she would not be happy with you crying like this. Remember how she always reminded you of the good times in your lives together. Come on it's time to go." As he supported his father they turned and headed towards the line of cars waiting silently in the pouring rain.
William opened the door for his father and helped him into the front seat. As the door closed, he looked back at the men preparing to lower his wife into the arms of the cold earth. Again the tears came as thoughts of her flooded into his mind. No other thoughts could enter this place of loneliness and sadness. As his son closed the driver's door it, for the moment, returned him to the world that surrounded him. A world in which he could not bear being alone in his sadness. A sadness that even in a room filled with people, he felt alone.
Soon the car was moving away from the place that now held his wife and he would soon return home. In Henry's heart it was a place he feared more than any other place this day. It was a place that everything reminded him of his Rose. But it was also a place for the first time in several days since she took ill, he could hide from the world and be alone from those who constantly told him how sorry they were for his loss. He appreciated the words, but they did little to comfort him in his grief.
The rain had almost stopped by the time they returned home. The warm rain on the cold earth caused a mist to rise a few feet off the ground. It seemed to soften the world's appearance as he looked at the empty house. The car door opened and his son held out his hand, 'Dad, come on, I'll help you into the house." As Henry got out of the car, he saw, in the back seat, his granddaughter. Tears were coming down her face. He knew even in his sadness he must try and comfort his granddaughter. He opened the car door and knelt down beside the sad faced girl who tried to hold her tears as she saw her grandpa. "You know your grandma would not want us to cry. She was always saying how we should try and smile and make the world a little better." The girl wrapped her arms around his neck and once again began to cry.
"Dad, come on, let's get you inside and out of those rain-soaked clothes." As he stood, he noticed that his son's wife and daughter started to get out of the car. Henry turned and drew in a deep breath and put on a brave face. "Now listen here. You all go on home now and get yourselves out of those wet clothes."
His son started to protest, but before he could say too much Henry took his hand. "Son, take your family home, it has been a long month for us all, I will be fine. You have to think about your family too." His son once again started to protest as Henry held his hand up for him to stop. "Go on now, I'll see you tomorrow." His son's wife came and gave him a hug, along with his granddaughter. In a moment they returned to the car. As his son started to get in the car he turned and looked at his father.
"Dad, I'll be by in the morning, try and get some sleep." Henry held his hand up and half smiled to indicate to his son he would heed his words. He knew in his mind, sleep would not come and bring any comfort. He watched as the car slowly backed out of the drive and paused as it stopped on the street. All inside the car held their hands up to say good bye. Henry forced a smile and waved back.
As the car pulled away he looked across the street at the neighbor's house. Paul and Heady Winchell stood looking out the window at him for a moment, then she placed her hand on the glass towards Henry. He just nodded his head that he understood what she meant. They had moved in at the same time as Henry and Rose. Back then it was not a housing development, it was a gravel lane with two houses. That was many years ago. Now the street was paved and many homes sat along the quiet street.
As he opened the door he was overtaken once again with a wave of emotions. The house still held the scent of his wife in the air. The familiar touch of her perfume still lingers in the stillness of the empty house. He did not remove his wet coat as he sat in his big chair in the living room. As he looked out the window he saw the seemingly lifeless roses that his wife had spent so many hours taking care of in the backyard. He closed his eyes and could picture her kneeling and tending the flowers. She would on occasion catch him looking at her through the window. He could see her smiling at him as she tended her flowers. He had watched her many times tending the roses that now slept in the February cold. Perhaps that image in his mind gave him comfort and allowed sleep to overtake his body and carry him away into his dreams.