Loss. A short word to describe 'tragedy' and 'grief'. People say 'grief is a prison', with the implication that one could expect parole. It's been three years since… I still haven't been able to let go. I wound my way through headstones, angels and monks. I glanced at the bouquet of pink, striped carnations, honeysuckles and marigolds as I knelt by It.

'It', was my husband's tombstone.

Here lies

Zachary Oakley,

A

Gifted Writer,

Dear Son

and

Loving Husband

1979 – 2016

I laid the bouquet at its base and reverently traced the words. I felt a small smile touch my lips at the thought of our wedding….

Church bells chimed merrily as I struggled to control my excited heart. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror; dressed in an elegant white-satin gown, my rust-colored makeup complimenting my hazel eyes. I smiled. I was marrying the man I loved. "Are you ready, Hazel?" my father called softly. "Yes," I said, turning to him. He held out his arm for me….

I breathed sharply at the unbidden memory. "Oh, Zac. I wish you were still here," I whispered, worrying my brown diamond ring as the memory continued….

"…To love and to cherish until death do us part," we recited, slipping rings onto each other's fingers. "You may now kiss the bride," the preacher declared proudly….

A silent tear slid down my cheek. Many good and sweet memories had become painful. In all these years without him, only one haunted my dreams.

Moonlight streamed in through our bedroom window. I smiled as Zac's arms tightened around me.

Before we drifted off, breaking glass sounded wildly downstairs. "Call the police," Zac ordered as he moved me away. I quickly dialed the emergency number. Zac had stalked to lock the dividing door between the stairs and the hallway. "Please hurry," I begged urgently as Zac quietly strode back in, closing our door. We heard muffled cursing and the divider being forced. "Quickly, Haze, quickly," we hurried to a hidden room. Footsteps echoed down the hall, along with bangs on our doors. "I love you, Hazel Oakley," Zac said, kissing my forehead. Panic washed over me. "No, Zac –" he shut the wall as they broke in. Coarse shouts thundered and Zac's calm voice of reason alternated quickly. I heard another voice, and one loud gunshot, followed by another two.

Then nothing. Just silence. I pushed the wall open.

"No!" I shrieked, and ran to Zachary. "No no no no," I moaned, cradling his head and shoulders. There, in his chest, right where his golden heart was, was a bullet wound. I heard the police asking me questions. All I knew, was that he was dead.

I began sobbing earnestly, and stared at his headstone through my fingers and tears. I lifted my face to see a white dove glide past, settling in front of me. I stopped crying long enough to see its glory. It cooed softly, then lifted its wings and flew away, seemingly with my sadness.

I breathed in deeply. It wasn't fair, and it certainly wasn't right that Zac had died. But I would be okay. Not today or tomorrow, but definitely someday. I wiped away my tears and touched the top of the tombstone.

"I love you too, Zachary Oakley."