Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

I've lived long enough in this country to know that death isn't as peaceful as many people think. I've known this for all my life, since the day I was born, maybe. But I never thought death would be like this.

For two days now I've been struggling. Cold, exhausted, tired, thirsty and in great pain. Pain, greater than anything I've experienced before. And my father could tell that I really experienced a lot. Caused him a lot of worries, I guess. Falling off horses, getting shot, being beaten. Yes, I've tried everything in my life. Not only on free will, of course, but I never tried to run away. My brother Ray once said that I had many faults but lack of courage wasn't one. Yes, I think, I've never been a coward.

I wasn't one two days ago either. Maybe I had repeated my old mistake, Act first, then think`. But I didn't run away. Instead, I turned and faced my enemies. Five against one. I guess, the odds were against me, but like I said before, I'm no coward. Not a single shot fell in the following fight. No, they weren't idiots. They knew the sound would attract attention. Five against one. Maybe the other people would've helped me. I guess, I'm right. Too late now, though. We'd been fighting for only a few minutes. Real fighting, I mean. The other time they were just beating a man lying helpless on the ground. Me. I don't know why they didn't kill me right there. Maybe they were no bad men at all. Just trying to protect themselves. I don't think so. The odds were against me. Maybe they were disturbed in their doing. Maybe they wanted me to face the fate I'm facing right now: Dying alone in the woods, after a long, painful struggle. I don't know.

In fact, I don't remember many things anymore. They have gone into a haze for the past few days. The only thing which is still as clear as it has always been is the picture of my family in my mind. My Pa, my two brothers. I haven't been fighting for life for myself. I've been fighting for them. Only for them. I don't know what to do without them, but I know they'd be lost without me either. I think of Pa, already old but still full of life. His life is his three sons. I know that. He's said that so many times that I can't count it anymore. He has already lost three wives. Any other people would have become depressed by that. He didn't. I know he misses them. Ray's mother, Thomas mother and my own. I don't remember much about her. She died long ago, 17 years ago to be exact. I'd been only five years old then. I didn't have a Ma for long but I feel no sorrow about it. It was destiny. Mine and hers. And I know I can't complain about missing love in my family. My Pa and my brothers have always been there for me and they gave me all the love I needed. Sometimes even more. Yes, they've been a bit overprotective. Sometimes. On the other side I know I needed this love. I think I never told Ray how much I needed him. Our relationship has been the most difficult one. With him being the oldest and me being the youngest, he always thought I was only a kid. After all, I have to admit now, he'd been right for a long time. More than 13 years older than me, he'd been almost grown when I walked my first steps or got my first teeth. But I guess, in the last few months we've been getting along well on each other. Maybe he learned that I'm not a kid anymore. Yes, I think so.

I will miss him.

But with Thomas it is completely different. He's always been the one I had a lot of fun with. He is almost my age, just two years older and I think that makes the difference - he still sees the little one in me but two years is much lesser than 13, I can tell you. When I was in a fight with older boys he came to defend me, when I had an argument with Pa he defended me, when I played tricks on him he got never angry. No one could imagine a better brother. I know, he would have taken this beating for me either. I don't want to die without saying good-bye to him. He doesn't deserve that. My brother.

I feel now that I won't have much time left. My strength is leaving me faster and faster. So this will be my fate. Dying here in the woods - far away from home, from the place I was born 22 years ago, from the place I've been living since then. I will have to bear this. It has always been my greatest fear - I can admit this right now. I've always been afraid of dying alone. I've seen many good men die and I always knew that I would have to die once for sure. But not like this. The chance that someone will come along this way is only little, I know that.

Have I been unconscious? The sun's changed its position... Am I already dead? No. I'm still lying here - but something is different. Wait. Yes, that's it. There's no more pain. I don't feel any pain. Thank you, Lord, thank you for stopping this agonizing pain all over my body... I feel the grass on my cheek, then I close my eyes. I know the moment of my death has finally come. My body feels lighter and lighter, it's like flying... I open my eyes, the black has disappeared, I'm floating in white, blue, yellow. Is this heaven? Are these distant figures angels? Oh, I always wanted to see some. Is my Ma here? My Pa told me you had become an angel after your death. Ma??? Is that you? Yes, that's you, you're still looking like 17 years ago.... Finally Ma, finally I can be with you again.

The next morning some passing riders found a dead young man. He was lying in the moist grass, eyes closed but he had a wonderful smile on his face.

He was taken to his family and they buried him next to his mother at the top of a little hill near a lake from where one could look eastward into the rising soon - into a new morning.