I Hope You Understand
Picture - #12
DISCLAIMER: Story and characters are mine.
“Hello, Mrs. Murphy, Miss Murphy. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” they politely but quietly replied.
Mr. Thornfield, the estate lawyer, got up from behind his scarred oak desk and ushered Shawna and her sister-in-law, Maggie, to their seats. Then, he went back behind his desk and pulled out a plain manila envelope. He cleared his throat.
“The reason why I’ve asked you ladies here today is because I have some material that Keary wanted me to give to the both of you in the event of his death. He advised me that there are several envelopes in there, some for you, Mrs. Murphy, and others for you, Miss Murphy. Furthermore, they are marked in order from one to whatever. You’re not to share the contents of your letters with each other unless the letter specifically states that you may do so.”
“Why?” Shawna asked.
“I don’t know. He didn’t say anything else to me except to give you these instructions. I gathered, however, that he hopes you’ll do what he asks.” He gave them the packet and let them go.
* * *
“He goes and gets himself killed on some godforsaken mountaintop in Afghanistan that I can’t even pronounce and now he’s playing games?” Shawna asked, angry, incredulous, and on the verge of tears again as Maggie drove them home.
“I’m sure he has a good reason. You know he’s never been one to play games, so let’s just wait and see.”
* * *
While having cups of chamomile tea, Maggie and Shawna dumped the contents of the manila folder on the table and divided the letters. There was a small black velvet pouch among the letters, but it wasn’t marked.
“Do we open the pouch now?” Maggie asked.
“No. I think the letters will tell us when. Go ahead and open your first letter.”
Maggie opened it and read it. “Hmmmmmmmmmm…… Looks like we’re going on an RV trip. We don’t have to go across the country, but it’s still gonna be a good trek. We can use Mom and Dad’s 40-footer.” She read on a little longer, nodding now and again. “Okay. I guess we’ll leave Friday morning, and we’ll be gone about ten days.”
* * *
They started out in Albuquerque, New Mexico and were scheduled to make a wide circle through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, barely touch Utah and Arizona in the Four Corners area, and back through New Mexico to southern New Mexico, and return to Albuquerque. Sometimes, they figured they might have to drive late to keep to their schedule, but plenty of sightseeing and some outdoor activities were on the agenda, as well as plenty of driving.
That first night, they passed through Logan, NM. Maggie pulled them off the highway and after dinner at the café, she drove them to the little grocery store. Before Shawna could get out, Maggie stopped her. Maggie went to the coat closet space next to the bed and pulled out the manila envelope.
“Time for you to open your first letter,” she told Shawna as she brought the packet to the front.
Shawna opened it and dug out her first letter. Hello, sweetheart. Please do as I request and go with Maggie. It’s important. First thing I need you to do is open the black velvet pouch.
Shawna opened it and poured the contents into her hand. They were pennies with a shamrock shape cut out in the middle of them. She went back to reading the short letter. I gave Maggie a list of places that we stopped at often when we went on family trips. Everywhere you go, tell the people I’m gone and give them a penny to remember me by.
“I will,” Shawna said aloud and cried a little before she pulled herself together. They went into the store and got some things they’d forgotten to pack for their trip.
The elderly, gray-headed cashier smiled widely. “Hey, Maggie! How are you? How’s your folks and Keary?”
“Keary got married a year ago -- this is Shawna.” The cashier gave her a big smile and hearty handshake, but before she could exchange pleasantries, Maggie continued. “But he’s gone,” Maggie said sadly. The cashier’s smile fled.
“I’m so sorry, honey. He was truly a great man.” The cashier came out from behind the counter and gave each woman a big hug.
Shawna pulled out a penny. “He wanted you to have this to remember him by.”
The cashier took it when Shawna pressed it to her palm and almost cried. She turned to Keary’s widow. “If you ever need anything, please let me know.”
“Thank you,” Shawna said, and then they left to find a place to stay for the night.
* * *
They drove across prairies where Shawna couldn’t remember seeing skies so big, deserts painted different shades of red at sunset, and fragrant pine forests. They crossed the Continental Divide. They held a short, private memorial service at sunrise for Keary on top of a mountain where they felt like they could see forever. Maggie sang “Foggy Dew” and they “raised a glass” to Keary. Everywhere they went, the people honored Keary, too, and offered help to his family and his widow.
Finally, the trip ended. Shawna opened up her last envelope and read the letter:
Well, sweetheart, this is goodbye, but just for now. I’ve never regretted anything I’ve done, and no matter how little time we’ve had together, I know how lucky I was to have found you, married you, and loved you.
By now, you’ve been on your trip, and just think. You’ve only seen just a small part of this great country! You’ve also met some of the people. Despite this country’s problems, it’s both the land and the people, especially you, that are worth fighting for, keeping you safe and free. I hope you understand.
“I do,” Shawna whispered.
Story by: THE BARD OF NEW MEXICO
Have you thanked your Bard today? Please Feed The Bard.