He drove past that cemetery twice a day for seventeen years. It was always an inconspicuous place hued in muted grays and giving the impression of cold lifelessness. Aaron Peale never paid it any mind. It was just background; an obligatory staged scene from a low-budget horror film.
But there were no horrors any scarier than your own. Aaron knew this. He came to believe this the hard way. Never drawn to dwell within the confines of this barren “gated” community, he relented. He felt compelled now to know the lay of the land. Aubrey had died.
Aubrey was a giving soul that had decorated Aaron’s life in every way possible. From their first meeting he knew. An arranged meeting; that blind date had the potential to go horribly wrong. However, Aubrey possessed something he recognized right away. A quiet gentility that transcended any trepidation he had. She had an artist’s eye as opposed to his poetic heart. Aubrey was as expressive in oils as Aaron was in verbs.
There was always one thing that neither had an easy time expressing adequately, and it became to reason Aaron avoided standing anywhere near the wrought-iron fence gate.
Cancer stood as Aubrey’s conqueror. In as much as she tried to get Aaron to discuss her eventuality, he always avoided the subject thinking that if he gave it less gravity, the reality of her demise would lessen. But, the lesson it presented was one Aaron failed to learn.
He witnessed her decline. Gradual at first, it gained velocity in the downhill passage of time. With her dying breath, she pleaded with Aaron through vacant eyes, that something needed to be said about this journey they had traveled together until now. Unfortunately, through her passing, Aubrey’s voice was forever silent. She vowed that she would have the last word in all of this. She’ll send a sign for Aaron, to help him understand that he had done much to enliven her existence.
The memorial service was short, a non-denominational blurb in a rapidly moving day. His chance to say a last goodbye, and Aaron felt that it was over before he knew it; a distraction before her final interment. The motorcade was as unobtrusive as the brief send-off that Aubrey had been given. In a simple statement it was reduced to twelve cars and the hearse.
Rain-pocked skies loomed as the parade of automobiles wound through the streets of Bergen past the apartment Aaron and Aubrey shared. Aaron’s mind was an eternity away it seemed. Funeral flags flapped in the cold breeze and the four-way flashes the cars emitted only broke the gloom of the day as they approached St. Vincent’s Cemetery at a calculated pace. Aaron dreaded facing the monochromatic sense of finality that this dead space possessed.
There was something peculiar about the far corner of St. Vincent’s. It was bright. Vibrant. Splashes of color dotted the landscape and monuments near where Aubrey would rest. It stood out, as if she were reaching out from beyond to slap Aaron back to life. She wanted to be celebrated, not mourned. It was her sign.
It was something his artist girlfriend always believed. Life was to be expressed as completely and explicitly as it could. For no matter how dreary an end to which we come, the grayness of reality is what overwhelms those left behind.
“You can bury my body” she’d say, “but you’ll never bury my spirit. You can peel away the layers of what I had amassed in my life and hide me under the ground, but what I leave behind is the essence of everything I had been.”
Aaron knew she was right. All of Aubrey was gone. What remains is color.