I was there, at the grave of my father whom I never knew, a bundle of flowers clutched in one pale hand. This was where he had been buried, I thought. What bones had they left there to rot? Were they really my father's? How could they be so sure? The body had been in the water for two weeks after all, and science then was hardly the precise practice it is now.

I sighed, my exhaled breath making a slight puff in the chilly morning air. Slowly, almost reverently I laid the flowers on the dirt in front of his grave. This was as close as I had ever been to my father. I'd always been told that he came to see me when I was born, but after that he returned to Texas and lived the rest of his life with his second wife. I was also told how he died, but I suppose that I've never really wanted to believe it.

How can I be an orphan, I wondered. I had parents once, a loving mother, and supportive grandparents. Now I have a wonderful grandfather who does his best to take of me, but yet must take care of him at the same time. How could I have lost both parents? What had I done to deserve this pain? I tried to live a good life, yes I tried very hard but this was not easy to do. A sin can be a simple thing, the smallest white lie, or the vaguest hint of vulgary. How can I not do well if I never commit the mistakes to learn from? I tried, I told myself, yet I was still punished.

I stood up slowly, still staring at the old stone. It was dull and corroded, but as I ran a hand over the top of it, found that it was still smoothe and cold to the touch. Rather uninviting, but a perfect match to the bones held in a wooden coffin beneath the promising surface of the earth.

I left quickly, careful not to walk over anyoneís gravesite or kick up any dirt. I'd never liked graveyards. It is an odd feeling to know that you are walking over the dead bodies of so many named people. And I did not like visiting graves either, for I did not hold the visitation of dead bodies as being honorable to the deceased. Yes, the flowers you place are beautiful for a time, but soon they will join the one already there in the land of the dead, and nothing but wilted petals will be left of the once beautiful creation.

It is almost like an ironic slap in the face. People are given such short lives, in which they are bright and beautiful, but turn rotten and wilted when they die. Flowers are the same. I suppose I've always thought that thinking about a deceased loved one is better than simply dropping a few flowers on their grave.

The car keys are smooth and cold, but feel much more inviting then the roughened top of the old stone grave. The engine roars to life, defiant of the cold that tries to eat at its core. The steering wheel is warm and welcoming, and the open road an empty paradise. On the road I am alone, and my thoughts belong but to me. The birds screech open greetings, but I do not reply. I roll up the windows and breath a sigh of relief. Such happiness cannot breech this enclosed soul of mine. My shell is much too hard to crack. I have spent years creating it after all, and I am not about to start whistling a happy song in harmony with the birds.

The skies are blue and spotted with a few bright clouds, and no hint of rain touches the horizon. Yes, it is a peaceful sky, but only for those who still have a chance, who can go on living while their loved ones die. This is a sky with arms open in welcoming, ready for an embrace that will never come. The sun is high and bright, warming the cold morning. It does not shun away from the cold, but beats it back as if with arms made of steel. This sun is very stubborn, and will not end the fighting until the cold has left.

I roll down the windows and almost smile at the warmth that reaches my arms, the little hairs stirred by the gentle breeze. The highway is becoming busy now, with people of ages and sizes huddled in their cars and metal and energy. The bustle and noise reaches my ear, and I am excited to hear such life again. They have not forgotten after all, it seems. And neither have I.

I remember now the cool touch of the stone, how alien it felt, and how unwelcoming. It seems that death is inevitable after all, but merely the last destination in the line of many on the road of life. Perhaps it is not the place of death that matters, or how the body of buried, but rather how the soul chooses to live its life. Fulfillment of life is the goal, and death is merely the destination at the end of the road. It seems that we choose the path of travel, that we are to learn to love and
to have joy throughout this long fieldtrip we call life.

I turn off the highway onto a little side road, and smile at a little girl walking her pup on the sidewalk as I drive by. It brightened my spirits to see that such innocence still existed in this sometimes violent world. Though it did seem as if the dog were walking her instead of the other way around.

My driveway was a welcoming site, round little cobblestones laying flat against the underlying cement like pennies laid out on glass. I locked the car door as I got out and walked up the smoothe granite steps. The living room was warm and well lit, and the plush rocking chair was gently swaying in the breeze from the open windows.

I sit down on the plush velvet green couch, satisfied by its worn feel and the slight lump of nauga that visitors always complained about. But then again, I will never replace it. This couch dated back to the days when I had been a little girl and would jump onto the couch holding a bone up for my little dog, Micky, who would topple me off the couch in her excitement.

This home is the place of my earliest memories, my most precious moments, the souls of my loved ones and a welcome comfort to my heart. It is a feeling, a washing of love and happy greetings that welcomes me when I open the door, when I breathe in the soothing air. This is where I had my childhood, where I grew through time, where I loved and cried, where I was happy and sad. This is where my mother died, and so one day may I die too in this house. This is where I had my most precious moments with her, and I would want nothing to wipe those memories away.

No matter how painful they may be, they are joyous memories of days when my mind soared and my heart floated in love. Those days when I was never alone, when there was always my mother to talk to. Gone now, but always there. I know that I can still talk to her... and so this is the first place in my heart.

It is in her room that I venture, looking for an old movie or book... and it is there on her bed where we spent so much time talking and watching videos that I find photo albums and pictures I did not know existed, where I find little pieces of her past, pictures from her teenage years and home videos of her and my siblings when we were young. This is when I smile, and silently thank my mother for remembering me, for giving my heart some hope when I need it most. It is like the popular tale, that when you find a penny it is a sign from a loved one, a friendly greeting to brighten up your days. Perhaps this is my motherís way of reminding me that she loves me.

At this point in time, I am not ready to give this life up. I still want to live, to learn, to love... I am afraid I am not yet ready to join my departed loved one in the kingdom in the clouds, that joyous place where everyone is united in love and happiness. The rest at the end of the challenge we call life, the rest stop at the end of the road, where pain and sadness are put to rest.

I glance at the clock, the one that stopped so long ago, and imagine that I can hear its quiet ticking sound. The quiet ding as it chimes at eleven, the echoes bouncing softly in the room. I wonder why, after all these years, I can still remember the times when it was working, a beautiful piece of antique clockwork. It stopped at eleven, the day my grandmother died. Perhaps she is waiting in heaven, and this is merely a friendly reminder that she is still there.

I suppose that life is not so short after all, but is rather a kind gift from Heaven, a chance to accomplish something, to reach a goal, to love somebody. This I must remember is my only chance to do something, to accomplish a goal, to help someone. My one chance to make my dreams come true, and perhaps if I am lucky, to help someone elseís dreams come true as well.
My one dream, my goal implanted within my very soul, is the deep desire to help someone. It is these actions that give me joy, to make someone smile, to help someone through a bad time, to dry up a persons tears. To ease someoneís fears or decrease their sadness is to make me happier.

I glance at my piano, decorated with the many miniatures that I have collected over the years. Miniature furniture from dollhouses, small versions of popular household items... it is something I have always enjoyed to collect. It is as if I canít set up another life with these tiny play sets, and act out the life that I want to live. Maybe life is a stage, and I have yet to write the plot. The bloopers that sometimes happen in plays are the times of clumsiness when you hope no one has noticed and pretend it never happened. Those passionate moments of love and romance are reenacted as you enjoy your first love, your first kiss, and your first dance. Those sad moments of intense grief and depression are the sad times when you are forced to part with a loved one, when you are no longer to enjoy their comforting presence. The happy times, when to laugh is to live and to dance is to love, this is your life. The good times, the bad times, the down times, the up times... they are all one in this great stage called life.

You are the actor, the writer, and the director. The play is yours to write, so choose well the path that you take. The decision is yours, the paths you travel yours to choose and the mistakes you make yours to decide. You can blame no one but yourself, for you are the writer of this great play. You are the one who hires the extras for those happy days, the hairdressers for all to share, and the stunt doubles for those tiresome days when you are first asked on a blind date. The plot twists are yours to create, the protagonists are yours to choose, the antagonists yours if you desire.

The walls seem so dull now, stripped of the old wallpaper that adorned them. The pale white is disturbing, almost transparent, just barely covering the old wood paneling of the family living room. But ever still it is a room of memories, of nights when I played piano concerts for my family, of the last night that I ever played a concert for my grandmother as she sat in her old rocker, listening intently to the sounds of Mozart and Bach. The room nearly physically emanated with these happy moments, and nothing but joy reached my soul as I thought of the times I'd had here.

The old ceiling fan in the computer room still whirs its way lazily about, stirring the cool air in the connecting room from the living room to the kitchen. The room that was at one point a dining room and later converted into a kind of office room for the computer and paper work. This was the room where we would share our Thanksgiving dinners, where the tables would be laid out carefully, one for the adults and a smaller card table for the kids. I remember the pride I felt when I was accepted at the adultís table, a proud addition to the ranks of the matured. I remembered the homemade baked pies, the variations of apple and cherry and the all time favorite pumpkin pies.

Now the computer screen was a covert reminder of the new times, its LCD display a flat screen of seventeen inches and the wireless keyboard and optical laser mouse a sight that would make any conversationalist blink and do a double take. This I reminded myself was once the sight of a typewriter and rotary phone, its black plastic shell shining in the dull lamplight. Papers were still strewn about carelessly on the desktop, old manila folders poking their tan tips from desk drawers and pencils laid about on the little shelves like little knives ready to be sharpened. This was the place where my grandfather would spend many hours typing away at the keyboard, working on this or that, redoing his budget or typing a letter to an old friend. This was the place where he had wept at old music that reminded him of his wife, who had passed away at what seemed such a long time ago. Then his only daughter, my mother, joined my grandmother in heaven, leaving my grandfather devastated. This is where he secretly wept when he thought me not to be around.

Life seems to have its own way of teaching you lessons. It is ironic that you can sometimes not appreciate life to its fullest until you have a loved ones presence suddenly taken away from you. It is as if you never fully realize just how precious life is until it is marked plainly to you, until life for someone else is ended. It is a blatant slap in the face, a wake up call that is both painful and welcomed in the smallest way. You find that cold water has been thrown on your face and you wake up to a world without your loved ones, suddenly cold and alone. You realize how much life should be valued, how precious every little second really is. You find yourself laughing when you become nervous over some petty little thing, why you ever were afraid to talk to someone, why you waited so long to do so. If you find you need something to do, do it now. Now is time, could be the only time to do something. If you find a dream, do it, accomplish it, realize it to its fullest. Take that dream and run with it, offer it to others, share it and confide in it, accept it and act it out.

Life is short... so live with it, or you will die alone.