Mike has to say goodbye to his precious Chen in the most shattering and wrenching means possible -
have your tissues handy - you're gonna need 'em - if you've not read the prior four installments, this last installment will not give to you the full meaning and impact of the story.
Chapter Fourteen – Goodbye
Mike pulled into the driveway, and was surprised to notice the house was still dark. Chen worked so close to home, and rarely had to stay over – and Mike was late leaving his office. Maybe he had to run an errand, Mike thought – he unlocked the house, and went inside. No – no mail on the table – Chen always got the mail and set it on the table – no sign he’d been home. Mike shrugged his shoulders, and went to the mailbox – bills, circulars, nothing out of the ordinary – he put it on the table, went to the fridge, and got himself a soda – then went into the kitchen. The evening menu was, as always, on the fridge door – two lists – one for Mike to do, one for Chen to do – Mike started doing the prep work and making the salads, so that when Chen came in, everything would be ready for him to make quick work of dinner. In the back of his mind though, Mike was uneasy – on the way home, he’d felt something – a brief flash of intense flushing, almost like a heat flash, centered deep in his chest – it had startled him, because he’d also seen Chen’s face ever so briefly – then it was gone. He called Chen’s phone – voicemail – hmmm –
Mike finished his prep work, put things in the fridge to keep them fresh, went out into the yard, and started checking on the new plants they’d put in – but something kept him distracted – something wasn’t right – he ambled back into the house, worried – but not knowing really why – Chen just wasn’t late – or late without calling or texting – unless something came up with one of their friends that was an emergency – he walked about aimlessly for a minute, then turned on the TV to the news – Mike never watched the news – nothing there -
Eight o’clock – Mike was grabbing his keys, headed for the garage – Chen wasn’t home – his cell phone continued to go straight to voicemail - Mike was going to go to his work first, then – well, the plan would have to evolve from there. Just as he was about to head out the back door, the doorbell rang.
‘Mike Andrews? Mr. Andrews, we’re with the police department – sir, I don’t know how to tell you this easily – there’s been an accident – you’re named as the emergency contact for a Mr. Chen Tseng – are you and Mr. Tseng related?’
Mike’s mind reeled – no – this can’t be – his knees weakened – he grabbed the door frame to steady himself – ‘is – he – what’s – how bad – where is he?’
‘Sir – I’m very sorry – very sorry – Mr. Tseng did not survive his injuries – ‘
Mike didn’t hear anything further – from his deepest recesses, a scream of unbridled pain hurtled forth and ripped the night air, as his very soul was torn asunder – Mike’s entire body buckled as his legs gave way - he slid down the door frame, collapsing in a heap, weeping heavily and screaming ‘NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!’ – then crying uncontrollably as he felt his very being suddenly torn to shreds – his Chen – his soul mate – the strength and soul of his life - was gone.
One of the officers knelt and put his hand on Mike, as the other stood uneasily by, not sure what to do – somewhere, a night bird began its evening song -
It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day – the kind of day that Chen loved for he and Mike to go hiking. They stood at the edge of the pond on the sandbar – Trent, Davie, Bob, Tony, James, Carl – and Mike. This was the spot – the very spot – where Chen had offered the rings – and his very soul – to Mike, and Mike had accepted and offered his soul in return. In his hands, Mike held a small urn. On Mike’s hand, the ring – still so new, shiny, sparkling in the sun – gave mute testimony to what started at this place – and now would end here. The waterfall was quietly babbling – there was a slight breeze, and the sun was shining on the pond – the reeds around the pond edge rustled as the breeze blew the dragonflies around.
James quietly extended his hands toward Mike – Mike looked up into James’ eyes – he didn’t want to let go – James nodded his head reassuringly and, hands trembling, Mike gave the urn to James.
James began – his voice faltered at first, then became clear and strong, as he read from a small piece of paper - ‘We are here today to return the earthly remains of Chen Tseng to the place he called his heaven on earth – while he gave so much of his very being to all of us, and gave his everlasting love and very essence to his Michael at this very place, we know his eternal soul is in the heavens, waiting there for our time to join him. Today he weeps with us as well, as he can no longer laugh with us – love with us – hold his dear Michael close in his arms – nor can we any more share those things with him. He wished that his remains be placed here – to provide nourishment and sustenance to this earthly place he loved so much – and to the place where he sealed his everlasting love with his soul mate, Mike’ – Mike, who had been softly sobbing, began to openly cry and tremble – Tony and Bob put their arms around Mike to steady him.
Carl then stepped next to James, and began to read – ‘Chen requested that this poem be read on the event of his leaving his earthly body for the next stage in his life – by Mary Elizabeth Frye – it was his favorite poem about leaving this life –‘
Do not stand at my grave and weep -
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush -
I am the swift uplifting rush -
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Carl stepped back with the others. The woods fell into a quiet hush, as James knelt to the water and began to slowly pour Chen’s ashes into the pond – then a bird began to sing off to the side – Mike looked up into the trees – through his tears, he said ‘that’s Chen – he’s calling to us’ – James returned the lid to the urn, and with both hands, offered it to Mike. At that moment, the wind picked up, and the trees began to rustle as the breeze moved through the forest.
Mike placed both hands around the urn, taking it from James, clutching it to his chest – then he collapsed to the sand, weeping uncontrollably, crying Chen’s name – the others knelt down, comforting him as best they could – the bird, now overhead, sang again, then fell silent and flew off into the clear, blue, warm summer sky – leaving the only sounds the quiet gurgling of the waterfall, the wind, and Mike’s anguished sobs.
After a few minutes, Mike began to rise from the sandbar. As he did, he reached into his pocket, withdrew a closed hand, placed his hand close to the sand, and opened it – a small object fell out – there, on the sand, was a ring – Chen’s ring – still so new, so shiny – flashing like a star in the night sky – it glinted and sparkled in the sun. Mike knelt, kissed the ring as it laid on the sand, placed his hand on it, said a soft goodbye, and stood to go with the others.