Learning to Fly
Dressed in a black suit and black loafers, Sebastian Keller sat alone on a wooden bench at the end of a hiking trail in The Great Smoky Mountains, watching birds fly as the sun set.
Sebastian had always wanted to fly like the birds. He always swore that one day, it’d happen. Ever since he was a young boy and his grandmother would take him birdwatching on the trails throughout The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, he felt destined to one day sprout wings and soar the vast skies. One of his favorite mountains to hike with Grandma was called Mt. LeConte. The mountain stood at 5,300 feet with a five-mile dirt trail through blooming pink Rosebays and a towering forest. It was also the one mountain where they were almost guaranteed to catch the sight of a Blue Jay—Grandma’s favorite.
The trail reached an end at a peak called Cliff Top. There, bolted into the ground was a weathered wooden bench beneath a tree with thin winding branches. In the bench, Sebastian and Grandma had carved their initials after they’d finished the trail for the very first time. On that day, and everyday they’d finish the trail, they’d sit together on the bench, enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view, and watch the birds. When he was young, and when Grandma’s legs still worked, she’d sit him on her knee and bounce him in the sun’s kissing heat.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey,” she’d sing.
But as life did what it does best, Grandma’s knees became brittle. The walks began taking longer and longer for her to finish, and she’d always rub her knees in pain afterwards.
Then, the walks came to an end altogether.
Grandma was at the grocery store when she suddenly collapsed in the cereal isle from an excruciating pain. After a barrage of endless tests in the hospital, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Sadly, at that point, the cancer had already metastasized to her lungs and other bones.
For over a year, she fought.
As the sun began to retreat behind the mountains on the horizon, Sebastian stood from the bench. With daylight fading, he’d have to hurry back down the mountain if he was going to get back to his car before nightfall. But he didn’t. Instead, he reached into the inside pocket of his blazer and pulled from it a card. Tears welled in his eyes as he opened it. It was a memorial card. On the inside was a picture of his grandmother. Her blushing smile beaming, radiant—just like how she wanted to be remembered.
Beneath her picture were the words, If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to Heaven, and bring you home again.
With the card in hand, Sebastian walked forward and stood at the cliff’s ledge. Cautious steps led him to the rocky edge where he stretched his neck out to peak down at the ten-story vertical drop. His palms became clammy. Dirt and gravel crumbled from beneath his foot and he pulled it back; his heart pounding in his ears. He glanced to his side and noticed through his watery vision, a bird. Long royal-blue feathers, a grayish-white underside, and a bold black streak across the chest. It was a Blue Jay. A smile forced its way across Sebastian’s lips. Then the bird spread its wings and flew from the cliff.
Sebastian closed his eyes. He took in a long and deep breath. The crisp air carried the sweet scent of summer and honeysuckles. The gentle breeze whirled through his hair and across his skin, lending the most subtle of pushes. In his head, all he could see was Grandma’s face as he held the card snug between his fingers.
Suddenly the wind picked up, and his stomach rose into his throat as gravity took hold.
“A black wind took you away
Another darkness over day
And the clouds above moved closer
looking so disatisfied
And the ground below grew colder
as they put you down inside
But the heartless wind kept blowing”
-Linkin Park, Valentine’s Day
Thanks for reading 🙂 Hope all the moms out there had a great Mother’s Day!
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