The elk came out of nowhere. Seven hundred pounds of bone, muscle and fur. It hit him squarely in the chest and peeled him from the seat of his motorcycle the way one would flick a crumb of food off their plate. His soul abandoned the body a nanosecond before impact with the pavement.
He found himself standing, at dusk, on an old country road. Grass was growing in the middle between the tire tracks. It rose slightly before him until, a couple of hundred feet ahead, it angled sharply up and curved around to the right as it went out of sight over a hill.
To the left in front of him was a field with a small, well kept stone cottage in the middle. The grass was tall as if it hadn’t been mowed or otherwise disturbed in a very, very long time. Everything caressed his memory in a déjà vu kind of way. He knew this place but from where or when he couldn’t quite recall.
Beyond the house, a beautiful young woman sat in a wooden chair surrounded by the tall grass. There was an easel with a half finished painting of the stunning sunset in front of her. She turned and her whole countenance lit up as he approached. She sprang to her feet and came running towards him. “I’ve been waiting for you!” she gushed. He didn’t recognize her, but something about her was familiar.
“I know,” she said, “it’s all really quite confusing. But you must remember this place? It wasn’t that long ago that you brought mom here. It was me in the field when you two arrived. I came over and walked up the hill with her so you could go back and take care of everyone else. I’m here to take you home now.”
The memory slowly coalesced in his mind. It was a dream, he remembered. A week or so after his wife had died. He had found himself walking up this same road. She, helpless and slumped over in her power wheelchair to his right. Him walking quietly, not really knowing why or where they were going. They were both beaten down by the battle that had finally claimed her. Three years, one month and six days from diagnosis to death. Everything had been lost in those three years. He wasn’t sure there was anything left. Anything that is, beyond the promises he had made to her.
There had been no grass in the middle of the road then though. And the field was freshly mowed. A solitary girl, maybe twelve years old was kicking and chasing a soccer ball around the field. She came running up and said gently “I’ll take over from here.” Yes, this could be her. Ten years older and a beautiful young woman now but with the same bright cheerful expression on her face. Was this really their daughter? The one who had never made it past the first trimester, twenty some years ago? Is any of this really possible, he wondered?
I’ve been with you the whole time dad,” she said. “That person next to you in your dreams, the one whose face you could never quite make out? That was me. It’s very hard to break into your reality from this side. But I can reach you in your dreams. Mom stayed away. She told me her memory would only hold you back. But she encouraged me because she knew how alone you would feel.”
There weren’t a lot of memories that still remained. The trauma of his wife’s brutal wasting and eventual death had ripped most of the joy from his life. But he could clearly remember the day she had miscarried. Why, he wondered did he remember that instead of all the wonderful times? Four children still lived. Four first steps, first teeth and first days of school. Mostly wiped from his recollection. And yet, a sad but hardly traumatic event remained fixed in his memory. She would be pregnant again in less than two years and go on to have a healthy baby boy. She had barely seemed upset by the miscarriage at the time. Almost as if she expected it to happen. Almost as if it had been planned all along.
His reverie was interrupted when the young lady exclaimed, “C’mon, you’re gonna love it here! Mom’s waiting. So is grandpa. And so many others you’ll be surprised and delighted to see again. I know it seems so very foreign to you right now, but soon your memories will return and you’ll know you’re finally home again. We’re all so happy to have you back!”