day was gray and dark, with a chill wind whipping through the air.
The bleakness around him suited Matthew Wheeler perfectly as he
stood alone in the cemetery, visiting his wife’s grave on the first
anniversary of her death.
was impossible for him to grasp that an entire year had gone by already.
On one hand, each and every moment that he was forced to continue
to draw breath without his beloved was an endless hour of agonizing
torture. On the other hand,
the past year was a complete blur, a blink of an eye in the life he had
lived. He tried to remember
any particular moment, but nothing stood out.
He felt like he’d been sleepwalking the entire year.
focused his gaze on the red and white roses that had been placed on the
grave before he arrived. He
didn’t wonder who had arranged that; Trixie took care of everything,
just as she had done before Maddie died.
the course of the past year, Matt had allowed himself to be carried
along on the currents of life, without making any effort to guide his
own course. After allowing
him to wallow in the penthouse for a week, Trixie had stubbornly kicked
him out the door and forced him to return to work.
He had latched onto the meaningless functions of the corporate
machine as something to occupy his time and thoughts, and he had returned to
the workaholic lifestyle he’d lived as a young man.
household staff that had been let go to give Matt and Maddie privacy at
the end of her life had never been re-hired.
Instead, Trixie continued to take care of his home – cooking,
cleaning, and managing his schedule.
When his executive secretary, Margaret, found herself having to
clear his appointments with Trixie, she grew frustrated.
She sat Matt down and gave him an earful about the fact that he
refused to hire a personal assistant, yet he had Trixie doing the work
of one with absolutely no compensation.
Within days, Trixie was officially on the payroll of Wheeler
International as Personal Assistant to the CEO.
Nothing actually changed between Matt and Trixie, but his
employees now regarded her as the gate through which they must pass to
gain access to the big man.
January, Trixie returned to college.
She arranged her classes so that she was done by noon each day,
at which time she went into the office.
She and Matt both worked very late hours, returning to the
penthouse with barely enough time to eat a late dinner before calling it
a night. They were consumed
by their work. They spent
most of every day together, but all talk was work-related.
They hadn’t had a real conversation in many months.
did nothing outside of work. He
had not traveled at all and had no social life.
He used the excuse of “being in mourning” to avoid charity
and social functions. He
spoke to no one on the phone except at the office, and he had Margaret
and Trixie handle as many of those calls as possible.
He hadn’t even seen his children since the funeral – just the
occasional phone call, and even those he made at the office so that he
didn’t have much time to talk.
stared at the date on the elaborate headstone he’d purchased for his
wife. It was a beautiful
granite sculpture, the best money could buy.
All it did was serve to remind him that no amount of money had
been able to save Maddie’s life.
year. An entire year.
beloved Maddie had spent her last days teaching him that money wasn’t
important… life and love and family were.
And then he’d lost her.
now he had lost an entire year, without life or love or family, because
he couldn’t let her go.
would be very unhappy with him.
thoughts shifted to Jim and Honey and how poorly they had coped with
Maddie’s illness and death. He
had done nothing for them, given them nothing, had not been there when
they needed him. He had
failed them when they had needed him most.
would be very unhappy with him for that too.
sun struggled to break out from behind the clouds.
A single shaft of light pierced the darkness, striking the smooth
surface of the headstone and bathing it in a pool of light.
last words to Matt rang through his head…
For all your riches, your
true wealth is in your heart. Don’t
bury that with me today. Go
on living. See the
sunrises. Find the rainbows. Build
new dreams. And most of
all, my beloved, love.
Love deeply, love well, love always.
eyes followed the shaft of sunlight toward its point of origin.
As he raised his eyes to the heavens, Matt stood tall, holding
himself proudly erect for the first time in a long time.
He smiled gently, as he finally said goodbye to his first love.
had fences to mend and bridges to build.
He had sunrises to see… rainbows to find… dreams to build…
and love to give. It was
time to go on living.