The sun blazed across the tips of the mountains, tinting the trees and the trail ahead a fiery orange. His breath came in ragged pants as the heat sucked the moisture and breath from his body. Just as breathtaking as the sun’s rays, the view from the trail he walked crushed his chest. On his right, the mountain rose higher, leaning trees growing from it to offer what little shade they could; on his left, the ground dropped off into a rough and jagged field of rocks. This patch of stones was not what stole his air and filled his heart with awe, but rather what lay beyond it: a shimmering cobalt lake, glistening in the evening light, reflecting the sky and the brilliant colors of the land around it. It seemed to soak in the gorgeous burning hues contained in the spinning leaves of the Aspen trees as they fell, reflecting it back towards the sky in a glistening display of impossibly deep colors.
He shook his head, continuing on. He must reach the top. He was close now, he knew for he had been here before. Many times since his grandfather had died. He traveled here every year on this same day, whether the sun shone or the sky pelted down rain. For here, at the top of this mountain, was where his grandfather was buried.
His chest was on fire from every ragged inhale, yet it was not a result of his exertion; but rather a product of the tears threatening to spill over as he remembered years spent in his hero’s company. Traversing mountains and cutting trees, wading waist-deep into streams in order to get a better angle when casting a line. Indeed, those years had made him part of who he was. And now… now they were gone. Everyone had told him that soon he would remember those times with fondness, forgetting that the man he had shared them with was now gone forever. Pain did not ease with time, pain simply changed. Transmuting from a stabbing blade to a dull, throbbing ache.
At last, his feet carried him to his destination. It was picturesque. The sun slowly sank behind the range of mountains affront of him. He sat upon a well-worn boulder that leaned against the tree marking his grandfather’s final home. It had grown quickly, this tree they had planted. It was put into the earth on the same day as the funeral, so that his grandfather's body would not go to waste but would provide energy and sustenance for the young sapling. It was what he wanted, his one request before he had left them to muddle through this life without him.
It was poetic, beautiful, a grand and noble gesture. Allowing himself to serve a purpose greater than his own, even in death. Even more so than this was how his grandfather had lived his life. Serving others before himself, and serving God above all else, he had always been content knowing that death was nothing to be feared, for it was simply a step in his journey towards everlasting peace.
With these memories came tears. For though the reminiscence was full of love and joy, it was bittersweet, for those times were gone. Yet with these tears came comfort. For though those times were gone, he was still happy. For though his grandfather was gone and he felt the pain every moment, he was with him still. With him in every breath of wind and every scattered leaf, in every falling raindrop and every brilliant flash of wild lightning, in the warmth of every ray of sun and the beauty of every star. He smiled through the tears spilling from his eyes. For through every facet of nature’s beauty, his grandfather’s joy and life and love shone through, warming him with the happiness that came with always being loved; the peace that came with knowing that one was never alone. So he sat, breathing in the scents flowing through the air around him, hearing the swishing of the leaves gently pushed by the breeze, gazing out at the beauty of the land before him, and he felt at peace once more.