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An Overdue Final Goodbye

December 8, 2011

He parked the car at the back of the cemetery.  It seemed logical to start in one corner and then walk the rows of headstones looking for his friend’s name.  He did not know exactly where he was buried, but he knew he was someplace  within the rows of granite. Opening the car door the wind whipped. Finding a gap in his dress shirt it chilled his skin.  It was a cold overcast South Carolina afternoon and he thought about grabbing his jacket.  Instead, he began walking.  It was quiet. There were no birds and the stones seemed colder in the fading light.

One third of the way through the cemetery he began to notice certain names reoccurred.  Generations of the same family were buried within small stone squares emblazoned with their monogram.  When he encountered an overturned flowerpot of displaced flag he set it up right morously hoping someday a stranger would show his grave the same respect. Forty-five minutes into his search he began to lose faith, which in turn made him lose patience with himself.  He had not driven five hours, and visited Augusta, Georgia for the first time since 2004 to give up, and not pay his respects to his dear friend.

He pressed on. Now at the corner opposite from where he parked he had inspected three-quarters of the plots. Approaching a tree whose branches interupted a walkway he stepped around it and found him.  Tears welled up in his eyes and down his cheek. They had not gotten to say a proper goodbye. Their last telephone call had been cut short by a business meeting and a promise to call one another back later that week.  Neither had held up their end of the bargain. After not hearing from his friend, and losing his number, he discovered a heart attack had taken him five months earlier. He talked out lound catching his friend up on what had unfolded in the past four years.  The birth of a son, a daughter, more good times than bad one.  It felt good. It gave him a sense of closure.  Before leaving he placed a Euro on the headstone. It seemed fitting as they met in Europe.  Saying one last goodbye he turned and walked to his car cold but happy he had kept a promise made to himself.

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