The stars shine through the clear glass of Norha’s bedroom window, and the moon illuminates the grass below. Nature’s orchestra sings out in a strangely dissonant melody, with the creatures of the night conducted by the gentle and percussive rustlings of the wind in the trees. The window is cracked open ever so slightly, and the symphony of the eventide seeps its way into Norha’s ears. The night is clear and peaceful, but she doesn’t pay any attention to the beauty of the darkness outdoors. She is only conscious of the darkness in her soul, the pain in her heart still stinging from a wound caused by the blade of loss. She sits on the floor, a photo in her hand, cheeks damp from crying, staring out into an abyss of nullity, letting grief take her over without resistance. The salty tears keep falling, landing on the photo and making her pull her chin back into her chest to keep the precious picture from getting ruined.
Norha’s clock strikes midnight, yet still she stays huddled in a mass of mourning and gloom. She lifts the photo in her hand to her eyes and suddenly chokes on her tears. There, in the time capsule of that photo, staring back at her is herself, no more than a young child, an infant of only a year, in the tender, caring arms of her grandmother. There are wide grins on both of their faces, like there is no way that they could have ever known what awaited them in the future. But that picture was taken seven years ago. Now, Norha feels so far away from the little girl in the picture. She doesn’t understand how she could have been so happy at one point in her life. “Grandma, I miss you so much,” she weeps inaudibly. “I only knew you for eight years, and now you’re gone. You’re . . . all gone.”
As Norha leans over to touch her lips to the photo, a voice, her father’s, echoes around her head. Grandma-, it begins, but the speech brakes for a moment as the voice is repressed by sadness. And then, it breaks the silence. Grandma died. Over and over, these words reverberate throughout Norha’s mind, haunting her. Even when she sets the photo back onto her desk, she can hear her father’s voice in her head. Grandma died. Grandma died. Grandma died, never ceasing, causing her sadness to keep flowing out of her eyes as warm drops. Even as she lies down on her bed and stares up at the ceiling, the words keep continually resounding, growing louder and louder each time they are heard. Norha doesn’t stop crying until she has run out of tears to lose, and when she does, she just shakes, plagued with pains in her head and her stomach and her heart.
Norha lies there in her bed for hours, gradually draining herself of emotion. She prays to God, asking, “Why did Grandma have to go?” and, “Please let her go to Heaven.” By now, it’s two o’clock in the morning, and Norha’s eyes are beginning to gently close, but as her vision blackens and her eyelashes tickle her skin, she cannot bring herself to sleep.
Now that her bedroom offers nothing but memories of melancholy, Norha sneaks downstairs to the living room to clear her mind. She sees her favorite chair in the corner of the room and bends her legs to sit in it. Not having any clue in her mind of what to do, she stares into a dark place void of anything. Now that she has cried all that she can, she is left to her thoughts, now focused on the terrible feelings she has had over the past few days. At first, she couldn’t believe that her grandmother was gone. Norha’s life had suddenly become a pit of incomprehensibilities at the news, and she had been in denial for so long. Next came the anger. Anger at a hospital that couldn’t treat her grandmother’s stomach cancer. Anger at a God who had let her grandmother die. Anger at herself for even feeling resentment. And then came the bargaining. “Oh, God,” Norha had been pleading for days. “If only I ask your forgiveness for feeling so much anger towards you, can I wake up from this nightmare?” Obviously, that hadn’t worked, for her grandmother was still departed from the world. The worst part of Norha’s journey through grief, however, had surely been the paramount feeling of depression. It was so great that she felt as though it would never leave her, that she would never learn to tolerate the loss. Melancholia and hopelessness would forever be her company, and no number of tears could ever really be reality-altering.
Norha sits on her chair thinking about all of these things, when suddenly, something strange and wonderful happens, something unable to be fully processed but still powerful. A quiet voice, sweet and calm, calls to her, and she opens her eyes. “Norha,” the voice says. “Don’t cry, I’m right here.”
Norha spins around in her chair, searching for the speaker, but there is no one. The voice comes again, slightly louder, and Norha can vaguely see a image, ghostly but comforting, in the back of her mind. Again, it speaks. “Please, Norha, I don’t want you to feel this way. I don’t like to see you so sad. Smile for me.” And, against all her better judgement, the ends of Norha’s small mouth rise. “That’s the little girl I know,” says the image, and at this, Norha knows who it is.
“Grandma!” she yells, more overjoyed than even surprised. Then, she becomes more solemn. “Are you an angel now?”
“Child, I’m no angel,” Norha’s grandma whispers gently. “But I’m up in Heaven. And someday, far in the future, you will be, too. But for now, you need to know that I will always be with you. Treasure my memory, and I’ll never leave you.”
“Al- alright,” Norha stutters. The image in her mind becomes clearer, and her grandmother reaches out to her with a pulsating, spectral hand. Norha reaches out in front of her and holds tight to thin air, but though she isn’t touching anything, she can feel something. Warmth, slowly spreading through her body and thawing her frozen heart. One single tear, not of sadness, but of joy, trails down Norha’s face as she truly smiles for the first time in so long. The last she sees of her grandmother is a silhouette against a bright, heavenly light that slowly disappears, and although it will be years and years before she sees her grandmother again, Norha moves on and smiles for her.