The oak

Samantha Steele

20th January 1988 – 1st November 2014

“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”

Morning tranquility

I took Sam to the historic cemetery across the street from our house one Spring a few years ago. She was skeptical about that particular outing but I like to think that by the time we left the cemetery that day she was touched by the breath-taking, mind-stilling, emotion-enabling and peace-giving soul of that place. We sat on a gravestone, kicking our feet, farewelling Winter. In every direction new life burst from each nook and cranny. I don’t remember what we talked about but I do remember the feeling of being in her company: easy, understanding, caring, sharing, trusting, light-hearted, big-hearted, gutsy, true, filled with talking and laughing, accepting, validating, respectful and honest. I miss her company. I miss her. 

Dogs and the gravestoneI spent much of her last and most difficult Spring perched on my favourite gravestone, shaded by a majestic oak, and surrounded by a sea of grass and wildflowers. I listened to the Taylor Swift album she would never hear, and wrote emails she would never read. Leaked tears, panicked, grieved, struggled to cling to hope. Lost my voice. Marvelled that I made it through each day. Steeled myself for the worst, and tried to imagine a world without Sam in it. The oak stood witness to my slow unravelling and loaned me the strength I couldn’t muster to survive that terrible time.

After Sam left us I saw the oak leaves age and fall. I missed them in winter when there was no shelter from the rain. I watched closely throughout September, knowing that when it flung its leaves out against the sky, hastily, after weeks of taunting, that this time last year Sam’s time was almost nigh. 

The oak showcases the seasons and reminds me of all the days we are living without her: on the other side of the kitchen table, in the hallway at work, on the end of the phone, celebrating life milestones, dissecting a new novel, ordering a hot chocolate, scrapbooking. 

I slow and think of Sam whenever I pass the oak. I feel connected to her there. I sit a while. I remember. I wish. I am thankful. I am struck anew by the loss of her. I talk to her. I can almost hear her whispering through the leaves and rousing the bird song, feel her swaying the branches, see her dappling the sun. She is in the rough sandstone against my bare legs. She is in the colour of a ladybug resting on a leaf. She is as limitless as the sky. She is ageless like the oak. She is forever part of the fabric of my life. She is not forgotten.

Light in the cemetery

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