Lizzie picks herself up off the cold, damp ground and wipes her eyes on the sleeves of her dark green peacoat. She sees dirt on her jeans and tries to wipe it away, frustrated. As she stands up, she rolls her shoulders, and attempts to shake off the melancholy.
It has been five months since her fiancé, Nathan, was killed in a car accident on Route 44, just outside the city. The last time she saw him was for a late lunch/early dinner the day it happened — she brought him leftovers from the night before (his favorite, her “famous” carbonara) and they ate together in the courtyard between the library and the medical center on campus. They rushed, both having to get back to work — he had a patient at four o’clock and she had a lecture at four-thirty. They hastily said their goodbyes, him kissing her on the forehead, telling her he’d be home late before giving her a final farewell kiss.
If she only knew it would be the last time she felt his lips against hers.
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Lizzie visited his grave no less than four times a week right after it happened. Now, she is stopping by once, sometimes twice a week to begin moving on with her life. It just became too much and she knew it was time to let go. He was never coming back and she knew he wouldn’t want her wasting her time in a cemetery, talking to slab of marble.
She replaces the wilting red rose from her last visit with a fresh white one, kisses her index finger and touches it to the cold stone before her. She thinks of their last moments together and how happy they were together. They were almost finished with the seating chart for their wedding, which at the time was only six weeks away. She will never find a love like his, not in a million years, and that thought continues to pierce her heart each time it echos in her head.
Before the tears can start again, she quietly says she loved him and turns to walk away, sighing heavily. Lizzie makes her way back to her car, head down looking upon the ground. Grass was beginning to grow; spring is about to be in full swing, a new season bringing new life. Something to celebrate, I guess, she thinks.
Just as she’s about to cross the gravel drive to get inside her car, she sees a man a few rows back. He is on the ground, leaning against a headstone. She tries not to stare. He suddenly stands up and Lizzie hears him talking to himself. He’s getting louder and his body becomes more animated — he begins pacing back and forth and is flailing his arms as he walks. She can’t quite hear what he is saying, but she can tell he is very distraught. Who wouldn’t be, visiting this place?
She wants to get in her car and drive away — let this man continue to have his private moment — but as if her feet are stuck to the ground she freezes mid-stride. After a moment, she decides against leaving and turns to walk toward him, approaching him cautiously.
“Excuse me… sorry, sir, are you okay?” she asks, timidly.
“I’m… no, no… I’m not okay… I’m so far from being okay,” he says, exasperated, placing his head in his hands, making no attempt to hide the tears streaming down his cheeks. Lizzie understands his pain all too well.
As he moves to the side of the grave, Lizzie sees the name of a woman on the headstone, listed next to what she presumes to be his. The dirt is semi-fresh and she notices the newly-etched date for the woman is from just a few weeks ago.
Lizzie pauses before introducing herself. She extends her hand and asks if he wants to talk or if there is anything she can do for him. He begins talking almost immediately, taking her hand and introducing himself. Within minutes, she learns his name is Jack, he’s a newly single father of two after losing his wife in a car accident on Route 44. The driver of the other car was drunk and slammed into her van – luckily, the children (Jane and Julie, their twins) weren’t with her at the time.
She lets him continue to speak — it’s clear to her that he needs to vent. Lizzie’s mind wanders to how it must feel to be left behind with young children — at least she and Nathan hadn’t crossed that bridge together before he died. She immediately feels horrible for even thinking such a thing. She hangs her head while he continues to share and once he pauses, she moves to stand next to him. She slowly places hand on his upper back and crosses her left arm over her body to touch his. They stare at the grave in silence for a few moments before Jack asks her why she’s visiting today.
Lizzie swallows the lump emerging in her throat and begins to share the story of losing Nathan just a few months earlier. She tells Jack her fiancé was also killed by a drunk driver on his way home from working the night shift. He puts his arm around her as she shares some memories while explaining how often she visits, and why it’s become less and less over the last few weeks.
They continue to stand there, softly talking for another thirty minutes before thunder rolling in the distance alerts them to the darkening sky. Lizzie asks Jack if he is open to having a cup of coffee, maybe talk some more. Jack gladly accepts the invitation and they begin to walk away together, toward their cars, with a plan to meet at the local diner before he has to pick up the twins.
For the first time in a while, they both feel less alone — somehow, a little less heartbroken and a bit more hopeful about facing the future. Starting anew.