Late afternoon on a Friday, I entered the church kitchen in need of a drink. I had devoted the day to weeding garden beds and mowing the grounds alone.
I'd spent my entire life busy with intellectual pursuits and I'd rarely stepped outside except to fly. But I found that I didn't mind the work at the church. There was actually something about simple, manual labour that I enjoyed on several levels; it was pleasant to work in the warm sun and satisfying to accomplish a basic job, to do it well and see it finished.
I hadn't even needed to fly since I'd arrived at Wave Break because the fresh air and exercise during the day were enough. Also, the memories of my last flight still crouched like a dark monster in the corner of my mind, ready to strike me down. It was safer to stay grounded and concentrate on simpler things.
Pastor Josh normally worked beside me but he had been busy preparing a message for the youth meeting that night. He sat in the kitchen at the folding table, his preferred place to work over his office. His notes and Bible were set to one side and he perused the local paper.
"I'm taking a short break," Josh offered in explanation as I walked in.
I shrugged. "So am I." I ran two glasses under the tap and placed one in front of him.
"Thanks, man. Hey, there's an article in here you should read, apparently some guy kidnapped and brainwashed a girl from the city last week. What a world."
"Maybe later." I indicated his notes. "How's the message going for tonight?"
Josh folded the paper up and threw it aside. "Good. Tough going though. You know the boy who died this week, Max?"
I nodded slowly. It was a tragic story. Earlier in the week we'd heard about a fifteen year old from the local school who had been hit and killed by a car while he was walking home. The driver was a local, a woman in her twenties who had been on her way to work. She wasn't drunk or texting, he wasn't playing in the street or jaywalking. It was a freak accident. She'd turned the corner, the sun hit her eyes and Max had been crossing the street. No one was at fault. That only made it worse, I suppose. The driver was in hospital suffering from shock. Max had died at the scene. The community was distraught.
Josh continued. "Well, I didn't know the boy personally, but many of the youth did, and it's hitting them pretty hard. I wanted to give them a message of hope tonight, but because it's based on the subject of death and loss, it's pretty deep, much more intense than I'd usually deliver to them."
"Death and taxes," I said. "Everyone has to get used to them."
"I'm wondering... Noah, would you listen to what I've done so far and tell me what you think?"
I drained my glass. "I'm not exactly an expert."
"You don't need to be," Josh reassured me. "I just need another set of ears on this, to see if it's not too much."
"If I can help you, I will."
Josh smiled widely. "Great! Okay, so I'm going to start by talking about loss, how we can lose people in all sorts of ways. Sometimes people die, yes, but sometimes they leave, like a separated parent or a friend who has to move away. Sometimes we lose when we let people drift from us. Other times it's a deliberate choice when we lose someone; we've pushed them away for our own reasons."
He stood and began speaking loudly to the room, as if it were filled with people. "Loss is a part of being human. There isn't a person sitting here who hasn't experienced loss. And with loss comes a whole host of grieving mechanisms: anger, denial, bargaining and depression. Sometimes you'll experience all of them at once, yelling 'no!' while crying on your knees."
Josh suddenly moved very close to me, his eyes locked on mine and his voice intimate. "But it's the losses that we cause ourselves that always haunt us the most. Because they're the losses we could have prevented. So think to yourself, and I mean seriously ask yourself, if today was the last day of the world, if all life as we know it was about to end at midnight tonight... how would you feel about your losses? Would you still be mad at your dad for grounding you? Would you forever hold it against your best friend for cheating off your test? Or would you run to those people and tell them how much they meant to you? Because at the end of it all, you'll never get back those losses, the lost opportunities to hold the people you love. Don't wait until it's too late to open your heart. Don't wait for a loss to show you how much you have to gain."
The room fell silent with the weight of Josh's words in the air. "Or something like that," he laughed loudly, shockingly, breaking the intense moment. "What do you think, man?"
"It's fine," I said shortly. I stood. "I have to get back to work."
"Okay, thanks for listening..." he called to my quickly retreating back. I couldn't answer; I had to get out of there.
Outside, the day mocked me with its clear skies and brilliant sunshine. The black loss festering inside my heart writhed with the irony of it all. I moved behind a large tree, with a trunk wide enough to hide me from the church buildings and fell down into a crouch, holding the fragments of my wounded soul together.
What would I do if this was the last day of the world? That was straightforward. I would fly to Keira and hold her. I would shield us with my wings and stare into her eyes as the skies fell down around us and the universe faded to back.
Or at least that's what I would do if I wasn't reined in by a power greater than myself. My head pulsated inside my skull, a relentless pain I had no hope of ever escaping.
Loss. Why, of all things did Josh have to pick loss? I had lost so much. My heart, my home, my family, my twin. And of course there was the most hateful aspect of the situation; it was me who had instigated the loss. I had no one to blame but myself.
I have never been able to cry. Even as a baby, my parents had told me I never really cried. I would shriek if I was uncomfortable or hungry, but no crying. As a young boy, I didn't see the point in tears. If I skinned a knee, it was a research opportunity into the clotting speed of an average wound.
The day of my mother and father's funeral, I stood beside my parents' graves, holding my brother's hand. Leigh wept openly; his eyes streaming, his nose running, sobbing hopelessly while staring at the boxes containing the bodies of the people who brought us into the world. And I was jealous of him. I kept thinking: I wish I could cry. Because if I could let it all out, let my tears flow, perhaps some of the emotional agony I felt might dissipate.
Instead, I stood there, appearing stoic and unmoved but broken on the inside. I might have been a staggering intellect, but I was still a ten year old orphan who pined for his mother and wished for just one more moment with his daddy.
The same thing happened that afternoon. Beneath that tree, I held my head in my hands and willed the tears to come, to wash me clean. Nothing. There would be no release for me. All I could do was rock back and forth on my heels, riding out the waves of fresh grief, hoping that one day, the losses in my world would end.
I skipped the service that night. I lay on my narrow bed and ran complicated formulas in my mind again and again. Mathematics was the one subject that still made sense anymore. One plus one was always two, and subtracting something didn't mean a loss you could never recover from.
Grief isn't something to be shoved away. It has to be experienced. We are very good at telling the people we love to 'move on' and 'feel better,' but the truth is, it's far healthier to say, "It's okay to feel how you're feeling right now."
So, here's to grief, to processing and working through rather than skipping over and suppressing. Anyone still team Noah, btw? More soon, thanks for voting and reading, much love, Kate
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If you had wings... If you could fly... How would it affect your life? Your love? Your freedom? Keira has wings, and she is alone. The city girl hides her wings from the world, believing she is a freak, haunted by strange men in suits who const...