“Life has not ended, only changed.”~Epitaph
Not wanting to be alone, Epiphany went home with Edward. He made them dinner, but she barely touched it, and they mostly ate in silence.
“I’m so sorry.” was all he could say.
“She was my hero,” she answered, wiping back tears.
“She sounded like an amazing woman.”
“She was.” It did not appear as though she was still crying, but Edward could tell from her voice that she was still holding it in. “She was as strong as anyone I’ve ever known. She worked her whole life to take care of me. Two, sometimes three jobs at a time. She never…” Epiphany paused to steady her emotions. “She never took any time for herself. There wasn’t a selfish bone in her body. And I wanted to be able to pay her back one day. I wanted to take care of her when she needed it, the way she always took care of me.” Edward could tell from her voice that she was reaching her emotional breaking point again. “But… I took too long… I took too long to grow up… And now… Now it’s too late… Now I’ll never be able to pay her back for all that she did for me. I’ll never be able to show her how much I appreciated all that she did. I’ll never…” But she couldn’t finish. She was overcome again, and Edward could only hold her as she cried.
“That’s OK, that’s OK.” He repeated it several more times while he held her, before continuing. “Listen, it’s not really my place to say this, but your Grandmother didn’t seem like the type who really wanted you to pay her back; not in the way that you’re talking about anyway. It seems to me that what she wanted was for you to have all of the opportunities that she didn’t. To go to college and to have a career, so that you could follow your own dreams and not have to struggle the way that she did. That’s all any parent wants for their child. I understand how you might feel you let her down, I really do get that. But if you’re able to make your own way in the world? I’m sure she would be just as proud of you. And I’m sure she’d be happy.”
Binking back tears, she looked up at him. “Thanks, Eddie.”
Over the next week, she stayed with him while she made the funeral arrangements. Her Grandmother wished to be cremated, and this was to be carried out in accordance with the appropriate Buddhist rituals. Epiphany made the arrangements, while Edward did what he could to comfort her. He cooked, occasionally ordering out or treating her to lunch. She slept on the couch, and while that made for an awkward arrangement, she kept not wanting to be alone and Edward kept not wanting her to leave.
When the day of the final ceremony arrived and it came time to scatter her ashes, Edward was more than a little surprised to find that they were the only ones in attendance. Afterwards, when they were back at home, he asked her about it.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but how come there was nobody else there?”
“Well… My parents died years ago. She’s been in this country most of her adult life, so whatever family she may have still have back in Thailand wouldn’t even know her. And I don’t know any of them. As for friends… Like I said, her life was work, work, work, all the time. She traded away her social life for that, and what few friends she did have she managed to out-live.”
“And… what about your friends?”
She let out a sad sounding laugh. “New girl in town syndrome.”
“Came back after school, moved to a new place. I didn’t know anyone here, and my friends form school all live far enough away that we don’t stay in touch. My circle of ‘friends’ now consists mainly of my coworkers. And I really don’t want to deal with any of them right now. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all good people but the side of me that you’ve been seeing this past week is not one I want to share with any of them.”
“Something tells me that’s not a side you show to most people.”
“Only my Grandmother ever saw it. And not even her, I could help it.”
“I’m honored, then.” Edward smiled at her.
“You should be!” she replied, somewhat sarcastically.
“Heh. That’s the first time you’ve sounded like yourself all week. I know it’s still too soon, but I’m happy to see that you’re feeling at least a little bit better.”
“I’m still a bit… numb. But yeah, I’m doing OK. And I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for me this past week. I really don’t know how I could have gotten through it alone. It seems like so long ago, it’s easy to forget that we were still basically strangers when… she…”
“I know,” Edward replied somberly.
“But there is something I’d like to point out, and I hope I’m not out of line in doing so, but when I hear you talk about losing contact with your friends, and having only coworkers for support, it seems to me that your heading down the very path that you Grandmother went down. And I’m not saying that’s BAD, but I just don’t think that’s really what she would have wanted for you.
Epiphany pondered the idea for moment and then laughed. “I suppose you’re right. Like grandmother like granddaughter, I guess. There is one difference though.”
“What’s that?” Edward asked her.
She reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. “I’ve got you.”
Her tone sounded as if she making a statement, but to Edward her eyes seemed to be searching for something. He squeezed back. “Yes. Yes you do.”
They sat for a while in silence, holding each other’s hands and just sharing the moment. Eventually Epiphany broke the silence.
“There’s something I want to ask you. I’ve been so busy with everything else that I haven’t brought it up but I really need to know. In the cab, that day… you looked up my Grandmother’s profile on your Tablet, right? That’s how you knew that we had to hurry, right?”
“Yes.” He answered, quietly.
“Were you looking… Did you have her page open… in the room… when she…?”
“Yes. Yes, I did.”
Epiphany closed her eyed and took a breath. “Did it… know when she was going to die? Was it… right?”
“To the very second.” Edward answered.