A Quiet Conversation
“Where are we going, Daddy?”
Daniel looked down at his daughter, Ellie, her blonde hair tied back in a pony-tail, face looking up matter of factly, full of patience, waiting for an answer.
“We’re going to see your Mummy.”
“But you said she’s sleeping. Won’t we wake her up?”
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“No, my darling; we won’t wake her up. Come on.”
He took his hands out of his jeans pockets and offered one to Ellie, who took it readily. A brisk autumn breeze grazed their faces as they walked along. The wind whipped crisp leaves along the asphalt. Ellie kicked at them, laughing.
Her giggles subsided. “Ssh,” she whispered to herself, “I’ll wake all the sleeping people.”
They stepped onto the soggy grass; it squelched underfoot with every step. Within ten paces, Ellie’s favourite pink ballerina shoes were caked in mud. She glanced over to the flowers that her father cradled in his forearm.
“Pretty flowers, Daddy. Are they a present for Mummy?”
“Yes, they are. What do you think, sweetie?”
“They’re real pretty. I think Mummy will love them. She loves flowers, and I do too.”
“Yes, she does doesn’t she.”
They both stopped at a headstone that read “Emma Hunter — Loving wife & mother — 27th November 1986 — 18th September 2012”
“So Mummy is sleeping under there?” Ellie asked, pointing down at the headstone.
Daniel cleared his throat before answering, “Yes, darling, she’s sleeping down there.”
“Is that what happens when people die? Do they go to sleep like Patch?”
“Yes, it is. Sometimes when people get very ill they go to sleep.”
“And they don’t wake up, do they Daddy? Cos Patch went to sleep a looong time ago.”
Daniel leaned his head back, eyes to the sky, to keep the tears that were welling in his eyes, from streaming down his face, before deciding on answering, “No Ellie, they don’t.”
Ellie looked down at her shoes, saying nothing more, eyebrows furrowed.
The grass was cold and wet on his knees as he knelt down in front of his wife’s headstone. He took scissors out of his back pocket and cut the plastic binding the stems of two large bunches of roses and lilies. He offered one to Ellie, whose face lit up after smelling them.
“They smell nice. I love the red ones. You always used to buy them for Mummy on her birthday.”
They both arranged the flowers in silence before getting back to their feet. Ellie looked over at her father, but asked no further questions. They stood in silence for a few moments, before Daniel offered his hand to Ellie saying, “Come on let’s go home.”
They walked back along the grass to the car, kicking back through the leaves once more. A big sycamore tree overhead was shedding its seeds. Ellie and Daniel both laughed as the seeds landed on their heads, and they brushed them off.
Ellie stopped walking.
“What is it?” her dad said.
“Do you think we’ll be able to see Mummy again someday?”
Daniel bit his lip.
“I think we might. I don’t know for sure, but I think we will.”
“I hope so Daddy.”
“Yeah I hope so too, sweetheart.”
“So until then, we should just be happy?”
“Yes, yes we should.”
Ellie let go of his hand and raced over to a small pile of sycamore seeds. She scooped up as many as she could, and threw them in the air.
“Helicopters. Helicopters,” she cried, laughing as they floated to the ground.
“Come on Daddy. Come on. It’s fun.”
Daniel jogged over to Ellie and stooped to pick them up.
Suddenly feeling happier than he had in weeks.