A companion story to Ghosts
It's so quiet...so different from the last time I was here. Luka found himself drawing a breath as the comparison struck and forced himself to keep walking. One...two...three, he felt his breath catch as he neared the simple marker. Four. His feet came to a stop almost without his realizing it and his eyes drifted to the headstone.
Danijela Kovac 1968-1991
Beloved wife and mother
Jasna Kovac 1986-1991
Marko Kovac 1989-1991
There had been no time for special tributes, no money for more then the plainest marker, why had he never come to replace this? All those years...slowly Luka approached the stone, then knelt beside it. Outstretching his hand he touched each name in turn, a finger tracing each letter as it that would somehow bring him closer to those who lay buried beneath it.
"I'm sorry, Danijela, I should have come back sooner, but I couldn't." He let his hand linger on her name. "I still miss you...even after all these years...but I found someone, someone who understands and accepts that I can never let you go." The tears began to fall as he spoke though he didn't realize it and made no attempt to wipe them away. "You'd like her Danijela...her name is Alenka...we have two children..." He paused at the mention of the children. "They'll never replace Jasna and Marko...it took me a lot of years to realize that...realize that there was room for me to keep you and the children alive in my heart and still have room for others."
At that admission Luka looked back to where his wife stood with the children and gave her an unsteady smile. At her nod he drew strength and turned back to the marker. I wasted so many years...blaming God, blaming myself...but I found my way back. It wasn't easy, there were so many times I begged him to let me join you and the children." As his voice cracked Luka lifted a hand to wipe his eyes. "It took me a long time to allow myself to live again...to love again without feeling like I was somehow betraying you and the children. I think about all the years I denied myself any feelings but grief and I know now you would never have wanted me to live that way."
He stopped to catch his breath, letting his hand rest on the stone as he did. "I became a doctor...but you always knew I would finish didn't you? There were so many years I hated that choice...I thought if it hadn't been so important to me I wouldn't have lost you all. I blamed myself for not doing enough to save you and Jasna...I wore that guilt for so many years. I know now I did everything I could, but there are times when I still have doubts...when I wonder if I had taken you or Jasna from the building if I couldn't have saved one of you."
His tears fell harder as he confessed the truths and at times his words caught in his throat, but these were the things he had to say, the things she had to know. "I walked away from the church for so many years, Danijela...knowing how much your faith meant to you I still turned my back on it. I met someone though, a Bishop...and he found a way to reach me, he left me with the means to heal and find my way back and through that healing I met Alenka." He couldn't help smiling as he spoke. "Her faith is as strong as yours was, Danijela...and we share so much...she lost her husband and son here...and she understands why I can't let you go because she feels the same way."
The more he spoke of Alenka the more Luka knew he needed her with him. "I'd like you to meet them..." He turned to Alenka and the children, giving a simple nod to show he was ready for them to join him before turning back to the grave.
"Jasna...Marko...this is your brother and sister...they know all about you. I need you to know that they aren't replacements for you...no one could ever do that. I want you both to know I miss you and think about you everyday..." He paused as he heard Alenka come up behind him and a moment later felt a light hand on his shoulder. As he turned his head Juraj moved closer, sliding his arm across his father's shoulder as the man took hold of him.
"You're all right, Tata?" His dark eyes studied the older man, and though he wanted to wipe the tears from his face he refrained.
"Yeah, I'm all right." Luka found a way to smile to his son and then to his wife as she stood there holding their still sleeping daughter. In that moment too, Luka knew his words were truth, after all the years of pain, of loss, of grief, of misplaced blame he was ready to let it go.
"Thank you." He spoke the words quietly as he reached out to the headstone, once more tracing each letter carved into it. "Thank you for your love, for my children, and for my life.."
While this is the end of Time Heals All Wounds it is in no way the end of Luka and Alenka and their children. I will continue to offer insights into their lives, their past as well as their future. I thank you for reading and hope I can continue to hold your attention as the story continues.