Down in the depths of the Underworld, I travel to meet with others. I am in charge of this place, yet you do not realize until you come to visit. No one fears me, but even more, no one loves me. I usher your souls to the other side, provide a land of rejuvenation until you are ready to return. I am your Deep Sleep. I am Forgotten.
“I want him back.” I stared into the bowl, making my demand. My hands were on my hips and my mouth was set into the pinch my mother got when she was mad. “I want him back now.”
The bowl was black inside and leaves were carved along the outside in vines and limned in gold. I filled the bowl with spring water a few moments before and called upon the Lady of Death. I was furious. I couldn't help ranting at the bowl. Finally I calmed down enough to make my demand. It was a simple one. Probably impossible to be given, but hey, She's a God. She could do it. Right?
The face from the bowl was a mixture of black skin and white. Beautiful, but bitter. She did not look sympathetic to my emotions. Perhaps yelling was a bad idea.
*I cannot return him to you. Not in the form you wish. That bond is gone. Severed. The relationship is dead. He is not dead. Your relationship. And you are lucky. *
“Lucky?! I've lost my father. I am too young to lose him. He is too young to have joined you! GIVE HIM BACK!” Okay, I realized I was losing it again. I tried to remind myself that screaming at Hel would not get me anywhere. Yet, I still screamed. I don't even know what I was saying. The pain is so distracting, even now, and my mouth took the opportunity to say who knows what. Hel's face grew pale in anger, well, the dark half. The light half was already pale.
*Stop screaming, child. It is not getting you anywhere* But I could not. I became hysterical, freaking out, wailing like a hungry newborn. Hel reached for me through the bowl and I took the black hand. She pulled me through the bowl. Then She held me. My face on Her black bare breast, my tears running down Her skin. Her white hand petted my hair. I heard a godly *shh... Shh... * and I found myself being rocked back and forth. Eventually I quieted, the tears stopped, and there was a rough wool cloth in my hand to wipe my face with. It scratched, and felt good on my numbed skin. I hiccuped a little.
When I had calmed down enough to speak again, Hel looked at me with the compassion it was rumored She was incapable of. * I know, child, I know. But it is done and the doing has been set at your feet. You did not need have picked it up, but you did.*
I hung my head, sick with the truth of my own doings. My father was gone where I could not follow and I had a hand in the doing. Hel spoke again.
*Child, know you not that everything had a hand in your father's end? He was the main instrument of his undoing so soon. His father's rearing, his mother's comforting, his sister's fire, his brother's inability to do aught for him. His great grandfather had a hand, his other children, your mother and his other wives. Each bears a portion of the burden of his death. You alone do not carry his weight. *
“I know, but it hurts. I cannot bear the pain! I want him back. I want to tell him I am sorry! I want to tell him...”
*What? What do you want to tell him? I am Mistress here, and surely I can pass on a message, though I must warn you, his past life is but one drop in the pool that is his soul. He made terrible decisions and suffered for it, and in doing so, caused those around him much suffering. You pay for his actions as surely as he paid for yours. However, those were temporal and he is past such things now. He remembers what he did, and sees it clearly. Your father feels guilt for what he did and has imposed his own punishment upon himself. When he has forgiven himself, he will return, and you are inextricably tied to him. You will meet him again, and both of you will have paid the debt owed to each other, or will pay it in future lives. There is a balance. Whatever debt you owed to him, you have paid for. Be absolved. I am no priest of the Christ-child requiring confession, and only you can set your heart at rest. But heed my words, you cannot carry this guilt into your future. It will harm you, which harms many, for you are not an entity unto yourself. You are part of a great web that connects all life together. Do not go to your next life bearing a burden you have no right to bear! *
I sniffled and buried my face to Her breasts, seeking comfort from one widely considered cold, when considered at all. “Tell him I forgive him, and in doing so I can forgive myself. I do not want to harm others through our combined folly!”
*I will tell him. * She said simply and held me, stroking my hair and rocking me gently like a babe. I loved Her then, and after for the peace She helped me find within myself. It is generally considered Her duty to bring peace and guidance to the dead, but She helped the living in that moment.
I know now that my duty to my father was paid, and while it pains me to think that at times I cursed him for his carelessness and selfishness, those emotion were propelled by hurt and selfishness on my part. I have to struggle daily to forgive him and myself for things that came to pass, but I save my recrimination for us only, something to be shared between the two of us, and when it is my turn to face Hel as my father did before me, it is then I will truly see everything and be wise. I will be able to shed the guilt forever and start anew, with the soul that was my father, yet is my father no longer. A soul I continue to love, a soul that will always love me. I look forward to our many lives together in whatever form they may take. I am at as much peace as I can muster in this muddled and imperfect body, with its highs and lows of emotion.
“Promise me he will not come again in this life. I cannot bear the thought of always looking for him. I need assurance that I will not know him again in this body.”
*Time is not as it perceived by you. Your father, the soul who was your father, may choose to return to any time he will. I do not think he would do that to you, however. He knows you better now that he has centuries of memories of you, and I think he understands your soul better than you could understand yourself. Fear not, I doubt he would inflict such cruelty upon himself, though he tortures himself watching you. Always he watches, though he cannot effect. Thus is the punishment he has inflicted on himself in atonement. Have a care for what you do, he sees it, and loves you anyway, but be careful not to add to his burden. He also feels guilt over your grief and all the death you have endured. But what you have endured was to teach you. Be sure you learn the lesson well.
Now, farewell. I will see you again soon enough, but not one moment before you are due. *
And with that I was back in my room. Alone and staring into a black pool, my face not even reflected in its shallow water. While not exactly at peace, I did not feel so heavy either. Not for the last time, I wept for those who I will not have again, not in the same way. There is hope, however, for I will have them again. They are mine to keep, and I will keep them in my heart now and in my arms later. I bide my time, enjoying life and trying to learn what there is to learn from Death, Hel's mark forever upon my living mind, a rare jewel of compassion that was completely unexpected and completely fulfilling.
I cannot hate my father, though he thrust me into a position where I could not be loved. It is not disgrace to die in bed, and no one really dies alone. But now there is one living who loves me, and while she cannot understand me, I am part of her, and will hold her to me again. My father does not speak to me, so I speak to her father. He is a good soul, if not a very wise one, and brings some happiness to me, if not to himself. I can only hope that I gave something to his child in return for the gift he gives me freely.