Her eyelids fluttered upon hearing the voice. She had been sleeping quite comfortably, for the first time in quite a long while, but she had been woken out of her slumber. It wasn't that the voice was loud, or particularly harsh, but there was something about it that she knew was not quite right, yet sounded strangely familiar...
Finally, her eyes opened and managed to focus on the sky high above her. That was another thing that was odd. She had fallen asleep in her bedroom, and she did not think she had been sleeping long enough for the sun to have started setting anyway. She reached out to her side for her glasses, then stopped in surprise. Her vision was completely fine, and she was able to see everything clearly, down to the finest detail, as the sun's rays gave an orange hue to everything.
She breathed deep, and the air, Such pure air, she thought, filled her with joy. It carried within it, the strong smell of the grass and the fields, and just a touch of fragrance from the wildflowers growing in the lee of some rocks behind her. She turned her head, and lifted her hands to touch a blade of grass, and felt its smooth surface, its fine edge, the way it connected to the stalk, and realized that she actually knew it.
She sat up straight, and her body responded easily like how it was like when she was still young and not weighed down by age or concerns. She marvelled at her arms; the skin was no longer wrinkled and sagging, but was as tight and smooth as when she was a schoolgirl, before the Occupation. She felt the strength in her limbs, the warmth on her face, and wanted to jump up and run about...
"It's also been too long since I've seen you with black hair," the voice said again from her other side.
She gave a short jump and twisted around. Lying on the ground next to her was a young man, arms behind his head, legs crossed, glancing at her from the corner of his eye. He cocked an eyebrow when he saw that she was finally acknowledging him, then grinned. She stared at him. He definitely looked and sounded familiar, and the way he looked at her, those dark eyes... and in a burst of alacrity, she knew why she was no longer an old woman bed-ridden by pain, but someone much younger, much..better...
The man looked back up at the sky, which was filled with brilliant streaks of pink and orange and the white wisps of clouds, and said, "You should have been here earlier to set up the place, and arrange the meals and do the washing..."
She gaped at him incredulously as he closed his eyes to relax. She suddenly knew who he was, and her heart almost burst with joy at seeing him again, but she also wanted to reach out and smack him for his impudence and wipe that smug look of his face.
Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times as she tried to think of ways to riposte, then finally said, "Well, if you were here so much earlier, why couldn't you have done it yourself?"
"It's a woman's job to do that," he replied without opening his eyes, but the growing smile on his face told her he was not being serious.
She rolled her eyes and groaned. "What did I do to have to endure this from you? I finally get here to be with you and that's the first thing you say to me. All you do is complain and demand things from me and waste our money on food that is too expensive and make me do all the housework..."
She stopped when he reached out for her hand. It had been too long since she felt him, and she fell silent as she soaked in the moment, and feeling happy and complete once again.
They sat in silence for a while, then a thought that had been nagging her at the back of her mind finally came to the forefront.
"How about the others? Will I be able to go back down to see them for a bit?"
He sat up and shrugged. "That's not up to me to decide. When I came up, they were willing to let me go down one last time to see the rest, but I don't have that sort of authority."
"Who does then?"
The man jerked his head at the rocks with the wildflowers. "He does."
She turned around, and realized for the first time, that the two of them were not alone.
"Hello grandmother," the boy started, then added, "Though I do not think you look very much like a grandmother anymore."
She looked closely at the boy. Like the man, she sensed she knew the boy, but in a different way. She peered into this clear, black eyes, and saw ancient wisdom and youthful enthusiasm, eternity and impermanence, past, present and future, and she instantly knew Him.
She bowed her head, and respectfully said, "Lord."
The boy giggled, his laugh a clear and pleasant sound, and he spoke again. "Welcome! It's been a long journey for you, always working and thinking of the needs of those around you, but now you can finally rest. No more worries or cares, just peace and joy with us."
She smiled at that. It was something her children, and her grandchildren had been saying to her. The though of them reminded her of her request, and she raised it up.
"Will I be allowed to go back down to see them again, Lord?"
The boy looked thoughtful for a minute, then looked at her with more sadness than she thought anyone that youthful-looking should be allowed to bear.
"They love you, you know. And naturally, they asked. And I know how they are feeling too, much more than they could ever know themselves. But while I could do it for him last time, I cannot do it for you this time."
She looked downcast for a moment, but then knew that the decision had been made with thorough consideration, and she bowed to the infinite wisdom of the choice.
She looked around a bit, then heard a bell tolling in the distance. The boy jumped off the rocks, and reached out for her hand, then pulled both her and the man to their feet.
"Time for us to go back," he said, then started walking, hand still in hers.
She looked back wistfully for a minute, remembering all those she was leaving behind. But the boy continued to pull her along, and the man smiled at her reassuringly, and she knew that it was time to leave it all behind.
"Let's go," the boy urged again, and this time, she did not hesitate, as they walked towards the eternal city.
* * *
Good bye, grandma.
Rest in peace.
1926 - 17/08/2012