Michael's head pressed against the window as the cold Seattle rain pelted the Town car. He felt empty. A huge void resided inside him. The rain was welcome and matched his melancholy mood. A hand covered his. Deana, Angela's mother comforted him.
Angela's father spoke in a deep but broken voice. "You will always be our son, Michael. Her passing was beautiful, it was peaceful. You did that for her, for us." Michael had taken Angela and her parents to Nooksack Tribal lands for her hospice care. The tribe had beautiful ways of saying goodbye to their loved ones and it was very consistent with what they wanted for Angela's passing. Michael had strong ties to the tribal community because he performed is graduate and doctoral thesis on Nooksack language and customs.
The car was filled with silence as the three sat with their own thoughts, feelings, and memories. The rain pounded the car as it moved through the streets to the grave site. Deana's hand still covered Michael's and began to rub his knuckles. He could tell she wanted to say something. "What Mom?" he asks.
"Honey, we don't want to put any pressure on you in any way right now. But when you are ready to talk about the future, we do want to know what is next for you. Whatever you choose to do, we want you to know that we have loved you since you were 13 years old. And that no matter what that will never change. We want to be in your life forever, if you'll let us."
"Mom, what are you talking about? You're all the family I have. You could not get rid of me if you tried." Michael said quietly but forcefully. Looking relieved both of Angela's parents sat back against their seats. Michael's own parents were killed by a drunk driver when he was a senior in high school. Angela's family had always been extremely important to him.
Angela's father looked over at Michael and his eyes watered up, "your parents would be so proud of you son. You are a very honorable man."
The town car stopped at the grave side. They readied their umbrellas and left the vehicle.
"Angela Darlene Welner, beloved daughter of Deana and Gus Davies, and cherished wife of Michael Jonathan Welner has left this earth, but never our hearts. Her energy, her humor, and her intelligence, will influence and inform every day of our lives as we remember her grace and beauty. ..."
As the minister spoke, Michael stared straight ahead, stoically. Later, as they lowered the coffin into the ground he felt Angela's mother crumbled against her huspand. Michael reached out to help steady her. The pressure in his chest was unbearable. He knew he needed to be strong for them.
Later, after all the visitors had left the house, all three sat down in the kitchen of Michael's family home. Lan, his parents trusted Chinese housekeeper served them coffee and tea. She and her husband Chi had been with Michael's family sincle Michael was an infant. They were elderly now. Michael's parents had both been surgeons. They had been married for 22 years when they conceived Michael late in life. Michael had been their only child. He had been very loved and very cherished.
Deana quietly asks "Michael is there anything we can do for you dear? Here at the House? Will you be staying here? What about Angela's belongings? I know it's too soon to talk about such things....but I can't bear to leave you alone with all that is in front of you."
Michael took a deep breath, and blinked. He thought about what he wants to say. He decided on being direct.
"I need Angela's things to stay at the house for now".
Lan, a diminutive figure, left the stove and stood behind Michaels chair. She wrapped her arms around him.
Michael continues, "My entire history is in this house. So don't worry about the house. Lan and Chi will always be here to take care of things. And of course you're always welcome here. " It was a 6,000 sq. ft. house with 5 bedrooms. He added, "But I need Angela's things to stay, for now".
He pressed on.
"I also need to go back to Nooksack lands for a while to finish my work with Dr. Powers". He was completing some linguistics research on the Nooksack tribal lands and was due to present at a conference in January. He needed time to finalize his research findings. He also needed the solitude, and to be close to nature.
Michael's financial manager, Sue Herald had administered his trust fund since his parents had been killed. She was a rigid, mean, scary woman who was determined to look after Michael best interests whether he liked it or not. Michael continued "if you need anything, call me. Or call Sue if you can't get me for some reason."
Lan spoke with tears, "Please no Mikey, stay home. Don't go". He reached up to grab her hands "I have to Lan. I have to keep moving. I have to finish this publication. It gives me purpose. I have to thank the tribe for what they did to make Angela's final days so sweet. Please understand." She nodded, tears streaming down her face. She leaned down and put her cheek to his then kissed the top of his head. She went back to the sink to finish washing up.
Angela's parents looked bereft. Deana says "But are you sure Mike?"
Michael answered, "Mom, Angela has been sick for three long years". The past 18 months she had been unconscious as a tumor grew into her brain stem, inoperable. All of her needs had to be met by others. Eventually, they collectively decided to not prolong her life.
Mike paused and changed gears remembering a happier moment "Do you remember how long it took me to convince her to go steady with me in high school?" They all suddenly laughed raucously.
Gus said, "Two years as I recall. She was always a handful. Even after she agreed to be your girl she gave you a run for your money always threatening to dump you!"
Pain mixed with humor saturated Mikes face as he answered, "She tormented me all through high school." Mike remembered how athletic and beautiful Angela had been. She would become infatuated with some jock, and then bounce back to him when her infatuation waned.
He said, "I was the nerd, but I loved her so much."
A sweet silence permeated the kitchen.
Michael suddenly said, "Mom, Dad, please get back into your R.V. and enjoy your retirement. See the country. Call me every week, or every day. But go. For the love of Angela, LIVE LIFE"
Gus said softly "it just seems too soon." Mike reached across the table and took his hand. "Dad, when my parents died, I lost everything that mattered to me. I lost my whole world. Thank God for Angela and the both of you. Do you remember when you and Deanna came to the house after the funeral? You came and sat by my bed. I remember you rubbing my back. Do you remember what you told me?"
Angela's parents sat so still remembering the time almost 14 years prior.
Michael continued, "You told me to put one foot in front of the other. That my parents loss would NEVER leave me, but that I would feel joy again in time. And they would want me to LIVE. I believed you. And that is what I did. I put one foot in front of the other and started walking, just getting through each day. And eventually, color started to come back to my life. Eventually I could smile. Eventually I could enjoy a day. That is what we have to do now. And for me to do that...I must work."
Both Gus and Deana covered Michael's hands and murmured their support and agreement. Gus says, "Okay son. That's what we shall do".