What comes after

Early March 1993: Second meeting

Music cue – RIght click to open in new tab

And at the end of two weeks of a life like that. It’s time for another scheduled meeting after sunset at the first methodist church. A meeting of the What Comes After support group. Janice has arranged all of the folding chairs. Griff helps because he was here early. Only one of the new faces from the last time shows up again. There’s fresh coffee and that’s the first thing people grab, the conversations only ever start there. There’s cake, nobody really likes the cake but there is cake. After some smalltalk Janice calmly asks “Shall we begin?” And the only answer is everyone silently trotting over to their chairs. Some take their usual seat.

This time Stanislav takes the initiative. He doesn’t speak often but now he has a look in his eye that no one has seen in his before. It’s a look that’s often seen here but never in his eyes. “It has been a while since I immigrated but you all watch the news. And with what’s going on now it is making me shed tears for my homeland. I don’t want to bore you with what for you must seem like foreign affairs. I was reminded..” He takes out a crumbled piece of paper from his pocket. “I was reminded of last year. When we all, we decided, because the meeting for this group coincided with American memorial day. So Janice instead took us to see the ceremonies. I remember that day last year when the mayor; Maynard Jackson, he said something. That all he wanted, was for everyone to be free and for everything to be all right, yes? It was later that somebody explained to me that this what you mean when you say ‘liberty and justice for all’.
“But what I remember most about that day is that there was a student from Clark university. And there was a poem, he was saying. By poet John McCrae. Well, boy, it’s very relevant you see.”

Stanislav starts reading from the paper.

“In these deep fields the poppys blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In these deep fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppys grow
In these deep fields.”

After a long silence Stanislav recovers, unlike Griff last time, with a smile. “I wish I had a bottle of something. These men’s memories deserve a toast.” Janice doesn’t have a bottle to offer but she nods and earnestly thanks the european man for sharing.

[Before you decide to share with the group. I would like you to write down your concept and to choose your archetypes depending on how you acted the previous two weeks.]

After Stanislav’s poem a silence falls over the group. Janice picks the session back up “Well, that’s one thing to be thankful for. We see these horrible things happening on the news and while it’s not that we’re glad that it’s happening to someone else. But it makes us mindful. That was a beautiful poem Stanislav, thank you.” She ponders for a moment “Maybe that could be tonight’s theme. I mean we all know that as complicated as our lives have become, the loss of a friend, the loss of others complicates this further. Am I right?” Everyone mumbles an agreement. “It’s not only about what we experience but it is also about how it colors our life.”

The group struggles with the topic until the young Stewart decides to speak up. “I too lost someone. I lost my ex girlfriend. Not because she died but she left me because I was such a rebel. Too much to handle, she said. We were together for eight years. Maybe that is also why I’m so cautious now. For a future girlfriend, or maybe for when she decides to take me back. Maybe she’ll say; ‘Oh, he’s a mindful man, he has a steady job now. We can be together again.’ I don’t know. It was something I wanted to share with you.”

This peaks the interest of some of the group. It is Darren who asks. “Do you still talk to her?” “No, not at all. I only think of her and maybe she thinks about me but I don’t know. I do know where she lives though, and she still lives alone. Sometimes I take a look when I’m coming down from work. So that’s about it, she still is alone-ish, I guess.”

Stanislav points at him with a somewhat thick finger. “No, no, no! This is wrong. No peeking at lost loves. You move on! You drive past the windows and no looking! Take express road.”
Dereck pitches in as well “Yeah, there are still many more fish in the sea.” In his defense Stewart admits “Yeah, I know. But it was eight years, it was a long time. I’m still hoping.” “You’re still young! Eight years is nothing.” Stanislav interrupts. “When you think about it it’s true. But it still hurts like hell.” “Which is why you should move on. Find other women.” Derick agrees but Stewart isn’t so sure. “I don’t go out that much. Maybe one day I’ll see someone at a baseball game or something. But, yeah. It’s hard. Not being with your loved one. So in a way, I guess I lost someone”

Dereck then tries to steer the conversation in a different direction. “Well, you all heard my story about Aaron.” Stewart inquires about this further. “Were you close as colleagues? Could you say he was a friend?” “Yeah definitely. We were on the job together for four years. So yeah, I was close. I’ve been at his house a couple of times. He was always nice towards others. He himself had lost one of his children when it was only one year old. He never got over that. The child had some heart condition or other medical problem. We as colleagues always dragged him along and he in return was very nice to us. He was joking during the breaks and whistling to the ladies. The usual stuff. It was a big loss to us when he was gone.” Stewart nods. “I can imagine.” Dereck finishes “I still visit his grave from time to time.” This hits Darren close to home. “Yeah, you should pay your respects, man. Never forget, never forget.”
It is Stewart who decides to inquire further about Aaron’s family and how they are coping. “We’re still in touch, yeah. I still spoke to them from time to time. But they moved on, I moved on. I guess it must have been painful for them. I was a living memory of what had occured to their dad, to her husband. I lost my foot in the same accident, it was very confrontational for them.” “That must have been awkward for them after a while.” “Yeah, so I kinda stopped visiting.”

Darren tries to comfort him. “You shouldn’t feel guilty though. And they shouldn’t make you feel guilty. It’s good that you got out alive.” “Yeah, it could’ve been me.” Janice takes the reigns in the conversation again. “I like what everyone’s been saying, you know, about loss. And you’re all right. There’s the kind of loss that you think you can never get back.” She says as she looks at Stewart. “And the kind of loss that you think you can never get back.” She continues as she looks at Dereck. “I have a suggestion. We conclude the meeting with just a minute of silence for everyone that everyone here has lost.” Darren agrees “It sounds appropriate.”

And so the First Methodist church falls silent. Until halfway through Darren breaks into sobbing. He is silently comforted by Janice. “Okay, okay, everybody that’s a minute. Let’s all thank Darren for opening up and I hope to see you all again in two weeks.”

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