Sarah Died: Chapter 1: I Die
Five years ago, I died.
It was my birthday, a wonderful day. Everyone was happy, but the sky knew what was to come. Even as tears of joy flowed from my eyes as I waved my hands and jumped up and down with delight, tears of sorrow dripped slowly across the windows of my parents’ home, trying to warn me of what was to come. Perhaps, if I had listened, I would have known how to change it- how to make myself heartless, so there would be nothing to break. Perhaps, I could have saved him. But I didn’t see the tears of the future; I only saw the joys of the present.
The joys were both simple and complex. If they ran on the power of the sun, we would be plunged into darkness for all eternity. I had met Jared three years before then, and we had been friends from the start, but not always good friends. After a year or so, he asked me out, and we started dating. He wasn’t perfect, but he quickly became my best friend. And then we dated, and we dated, and we dated. I kept waiting for something, but I wasn’t sure what until that day. That day, my twenty-first birthday, he asked me to marry him.
Need I say it? I said “YEssss…” and trailed off into incoherent noises as I tried to dry my tears and jumped up and down. Whether to calm me down, or because of his own joy, he came close and hugged me tight. I had never felt so safe.
He asked me in front of most of my family, so I didn’t need to tell them. They all gathered around and before I knew it we were all in a smothering group hug made up of about twenty family members. As soon as we were released, my aunt went to make a celebratory pie, as was her habit, and my mom went to get a camera. The ring he had slipped on my finger was beautiful and fit as perfectly as if it were a part of my body. It was so very simple, but it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
My grandmother immediately started to plan all of the details of the wedding, and had all of the music and the color schemes picked out by the end of the hour. My closest friend, besides my fiancé, was there as well. Of course, she immediately wrangled her way into a bridesmaid’s dress and position. Then she took my hands and we twirled around the room as she chattered on and on, faster than the speed of light. I laughed and shook my head, not knowing what she was saying or how to respond. I was so happy I could barely think, much less speak. When she finally let me go, Sasha laughed and ran over to him, kissing him on the cheek and then slapping him a moment later.
“What took you so long?!”
After we ate cake and I opened presents- which would have been forgotten had my Aunt not spent a great deal of money on one- he led me out to his car and we set out to his parents, to tell them the good news. We couldn’t have been happier or more alive.
His mother greeted us at the door, already having figured out what had happened. She hugged me and planted a wet kiss on both our cheeks. I didn’t mind, I like his mother, and I loved him. His father, however, was much more formal about it all. He congratulated us both and shook my hand which would have intimidated anyone who did not know the man. However, behind the reserved and nearly cold exterior, a glint of pleasure could be seen in the center of his eyes that, to the experienced observer, hinted at his inner approval and kind hearted acceptance. He was a good father.
We spent the rest of the day with Jared’s parents. We ate even more sweets, as his mother had suspected the outcome of the day and had baked a cake. It held one simple message on it: “Welcome!” After they ate, his mother held up her finger, telling them to wait a moment, and disappeared into a back room. She reappeared about a half-hour later with a small package. Handing it gently to me, she patted me on the back.
“This has been handed down through my family for many years. As you are soon to be my daughter, it is only right that you should have it.”
I opened the small package and took out a delicate locket. It was very unique in its form, made up of two panels in a heart which appeared to be opened only separately. When opened, however, there was nothing inside. After clicking it back shut, I looked up at Jared’s mother for help.
“Look deeper.” Was all she would say.
I fiddled with it for a second more, before finding that, when opened from the back instead of the front, the panels opened together. Inside there was a small inscription.
Christ, first and always,
Husband next in my heart.
I closed the locket gently, suddenly overwhelmed by everything that had happened that day, and hugged her very tight. Thank you, I whispered in my head and heart. I will never take this locket off.
It was nearly midnight before Jared took me home. The sky was blackened with the darkness of a grave, but we didn’t notice. We were too happy to even be tired. I was too happy to stop smiling, even for a moment. We drove along, smiling and chattering about the future. I touched the locket around my neck and thought about its message. Christ would always be the center of my life, and Jared would be next in my heart. We were engaged!
We were caught in a red light, but we didn’t care. We looked into each other’s eyes, still overjoyed and just a bit surprised by the unending joy within. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe the other to be sincere, but rather that we found it somewhat hard to believe that we could possibly deserve the other’s love. The light turned green, we started driving again. We were stuck in another red light. Jared turned to me.
There was a flash of light, a burst of red, a shattering of blue, and then silence. Darkness engulfed the world that I knew and I couldn’t see. All I could do was listen. I listened intently, and felt deeply. I didn’t know what was going on. It was almost as if I were drifting through a dream, watching everything from the clouds. My vision returned, only I was looking down on the road, unsure of what I saw. A pile of twisted metal lay in the middle of the road, surrounded by flashing lights and loud sirens. I thought I saw someone being pulled out of the wreck, but I wasn’t sure. I thought I saw an ambulance drive away, but I couldn’t tell. I was still there. I watched as something else was pulled from the heap, and another ambulance sped away. I was still there. I heard people around me, but couldn’t see them. A rush of wind and a beating of wings fluttered around me and a helicopter landed in the field beside the wreck. I felt something, or thought I did, moving around me. Then I felt myself drifting into the night, further and further. I floated away gently, and peacefully. Somehow, I knew I was dead, and I was okay with it.
Suddenly, I felt pain, and I felt my flight. However, I was no longer flying through the night, but through the day. I sped through a tunnel of light and felt the jolt of life returning and surging through me. With it, I felt death’s fingers clawing at my chest, pulling my heart into silence. I fought back, and tried to rip the fingers away. My heart pumped once, twice, and then steadily. The pain overwhelmed me, and my world faded into darkness.
That day, Sarah died. Perhaps she physically did not perish, but her heart stopped beating only a few moments after she woke up. The doctors hovered around her, trying not to upset her or cause her pain, but it was unavoidable. She asked where Jared was, and no one wanted to answer, but everyone knew they had to. He had died, they said. His injuries had taken him before he even reached the hospital.
She went through her life after that, only half aware of what happened around her. She had been buried alive in a grave of stolen memories. Her injuries had damaged her mind enough that she could only remember pieces of her life. She remembered Jared, and how happy she had been with him. She remembered her twenty-first birthday with perfect clarity. She remembered her first car. She could not remember her first date, her fifteenth birthday, or what she had done the Saturday before last. The doctors said that her memories would eventually return, but at least she had not lost them all.
Sarah couldn’t have cared less if she ever remembered what she had forgotten. The days she could see were beautiful and sad, but the days she was blind to were distant and cold. She didn’t want to know why. Her parents and friends who had been so happy for her but a short time before, now didn’t know how to even talk to her. She went through life as a ghost, touching those around her, but rarely seeing her own trail.
She was not necessarily unhappy for all time, nor was she without love. In fact, the love she showed to others seemed to overflow from her heart without end. However, in a quiet moment, when she was by herself, she wished he were there with her. She loved the joy on the faces of the children that she watched each week, but she quietly wished that she could have brought such joy to children of her own. She tried not to hold on to the past, but he had known so many people and gone so many places. Every corner held a new face, a new surprise. And yet, these surprises and faces would not have been new to him. Every name and every room she found herself learning about reminded her of him, and in those moments her smile would grow brighter and her presence would grow dimmer.
Five years passed in this manner, and she moved through life in a spectacular glow that engulfed everyone but her. Sasha married a man named Jacob, and it was a very strange event. Even though they were best of friends, Sasha hesitated to ask for Sarah’s help. She knew Sarah would not show any hesitation, but she also knew that Sarah would be fading into her smile as she became just another semi-present well-wisher in the crowd. In the end, Sarah became Sasha’s maid of honor, but Sasha’s fear was well warranted and Sarah’s grin of delight masked a deeper sorrow that had born her to another world in which the wedding she attended was her own.
Sarah missed Jared. She missed him more than words could express. Every time she clutched the locket, which Jared’s mother had told her to keep, Sarah felt slightly better. She knew God would take care of her, and she was still a child of His. And yet, at the same time, the red of Jared’s blood which had forever dried into the crevasses of the locket reminded her of what she had lost, and how much she missed it.
Sarah’s twenty-sixth birthday was a strange day, but it started out like any other birthday. She slept in, or pretended to, until 11:00 a.m. Then, she slowly got out of bed and walked downstairs. Once she entered the kitchen, everyone pretended they didn’t even notice her until lunch time. It wasn’t anything fancy, just macaroni and cheese, but everyone stuffed it into their mouths as quickly as possible in an attempt to hide their secrets. Then, after everyone was finished, they pulled out a cake and presents and everyone tried their best to seem excited and happy.
To someone looking in through the window, this scene would look idyllic and unrehearsed. To an outsider watching from within, it would have looked much more like an act. The masks plastered on the faces of the young and old as they squealed about presents and jokes that were forced from their mouths hid the underlying sorrow and slight fear. It was a sad day, made even more so by the uncertainty that surrounded it. This day was supposed to be a celebration, and they tried their hardest to be celebratory, but they all felt the fingers of remembrance tainting the sugary frosting in their hearts.
The accident had hurt them physically, as well as mentally. Sarah, while alive, had been greatly injured. She had lost the use of her left leg and the remnants of injury on her chest and neck made it hard to breathe. At first, Sarah had simply made her way around in a wheelchair, but that wasn’t enough. It was detrimental to her right leg to keep it always in the same position, but it was nearly impossible to use it with the left leg dragging on the ground behind. Eventually, she had given in to the suggestion of an amputation. As there was no chance of her leg becoming fully functional again, they had removed it completely and replaced it with a prosthetic leg.
Now, as they finished eating cake and lapsed into a long and awkward silence, Sarah stood and left the room, with her metal leg creaking along beside her. Like a sad hinge on a door that swung open and shut, waiting for someone who would never come, the leg moved forward with a creek, then backward with a creek. It embodied all the loneliness that death could afford, and all the pain that life could bring. It was a constant reminder of loss; a never-failing memory of pain.
Her leg moved with the wind, and leapt with the breeze. It led Sarah through the air to a dismal and dark place that rested deep in the solitude of the forest. A small hidden cemetery opened a wound of regret which boiled inside of her. She let it go as she sat down and leaned back against a somewhat fresh grave. She sat there, shoulders against cold stone and eyes facing the sky, for the rest of the day. The stars came out softly and danced around the moon, whose loneliness reflected her own. It floated across the sky, having glimpsed the sun at the beginning of its life, and then being plunged into darkness for all eternity. Always holding on to the sun’s light, but never seeing it again.