The ashes blew up from the fire as she gazed into the flames, tears making runnels in those ashes that kissed her face. She tried hard to think of his soul rising up with the sparks into the wind and the sky, into the beloved embrace of the Goddess, but instead she thought of the sorrow of losing his laughter, his sweet smile, even his soft touch.
The druid chanted in low tones behind her, and the friends and family processed around the funeral pyre in a slow, somnolent march. Such details she remembered later, though – at this moment, she couldn’t shift her focus from the flames. How deliciously clean they were, how final in their judgment. Mesmerized by the dance of orange and white, she stared until her eyes were dry and red. Finally she closed her eyes, and welcomed the dark, velvet embrace of the unknown. If only it were this easy!
It had been such a long illness, such a hard road, that she couldn’t quite believe it was over, couldn’t quite believe in her respite. No more sleepless nights, holding him through his seizures, keeping him from injuring himself. No more payments to the local herb-woman for unguents that didn’t cure. She suddenly felt so light that she could fly on the sparked wind herself, free of responsibility and care… she felt one with the fire again, but as a free spirit, not as a dead soul.
Her parents came to share her grief. Moments ago she would have shaken off their sympathy, but now she could embrace it and them, and sob in their arms. They knew what it was to lose a loved one – her brother had drowned when she was just a baby. But they never had to deal with the long illness and wasting away, the helpless feeling of losing the battle, and having no weapons to fight.
She forced herself to think of tomorrow. She would pick up the pieces of her life and start again. How she would do this, she had no idea, but it must be done. Her warrior father had taught her young that one must do what needs to be done, no matter that it is not pleasant or fun.
She supposed the healing part of the ceremony had worked, then. Once more she was ready to face the world – as difficult as that will be, alone again. Perhaps in time, she may even love another, and risk the chance of losing again; but not yet… not yet.