Luke had stood there for maybe a minute staring at his sister and Kristi had given him his time. She wasn’t really sure what else he planned to do, but as his face seemed to show his thoughts coming back from wherever it was in his memories, his soul, he had gone to just now, she could see that he hadn’t really planned anything else. His eyes did that thing where they sort of noticed her, but didn’t acknowledge it. He was coming back to reality and feeling a bit uncomfortable with it, she thought.
She bowed her head again to give him his privacy, but it was too late. He sort of nodded to himself and walked toward the candles like he was about to blow them out.
“Wait,” Kristi said. He stopped and looked at her. Kristi struggled for her words, but found them. “Talk to her. She’s watching, I know. Grateful. Thankful for you.” She smiled and could feel his resistance. “I can leave if you want to be alone.”
She started toward the altar steps, but to her surprise was stopped by:
“No,” Luke said holding out his hand for her to come back. She came back and took his hand in both of hers, so happy for it. And he looked again to his big sister.
It took a little. His lips trying out some false starts before he found the words he wanted to voice. But he finally found some.
“I miss you, Sis.”
He squeezed her hands tighter.
“Thank you. Again. For … always being there for me. You were the best ….”
He stopped himself. Kristi could tell he wanted his words to be better. He kept searching. Then,
“Without you it … life wouldn’t have had its good moments.”
That line hit Kristi with an aching for him, his childhood.
“Ten years today we lost you. And I can’t believe it. Ten years this world hasn’t had you to bring it joy … You were too good for this world—” repeating something he’d heard too many times, but still it brought comfort “—so God had to take you back.”
The first tear fell from his eyes, but with it other, unexpected emotions seemed to be battling behind the contours of his face: for a half-second anger, for another back to immense sadness, and for another nausea. His hand yanked away from hers and he went to the first row of cushioned chairs to sit as if he had to, as if he might hit the floor otherwise, and buried his contorted face in his hands.
She rushed over to sit by him and hold him. She didn’t know what to do. She kissed the back of his bent shoulders. He was really crying now. The tear before was the first she’d ever seen from him and now this. It was so strange: she was grateful for the emotion from him, finally, grateful to be let in, but scared and heartbroken for him. What was happening?
Then, Kristi could barely make out the words, clearly not meant for her ears: “I’m so sorry I failed you.”
Kristi’s stomach dropped in anguish for him. She had feared before with some of the things he said about his sister that somehow he blamed himself for her death and this was confirmation of it.
“No, babe. No. You were just a child. There was nothing you could do. The doctors couldn’t even—”
And it was the harshest he’d ever spoken to her. He twisted up and looked at her with, she hated to think it, but it really did seem like hatred.
“I know how she died.”
The tone was so possessive, and rightly so, of course. This was his life, his memory, his sister, his pain. Kristi hadn’t been there. But still, the tone of his voice just had this power of its own that forced her away, out of his head, his memories, his inner life—expelling her from what was his and his alone.
But then, as if some part of his brain reminded him of everything Kristi had done for him and was grateful for her, his voice seemed to shed some of that anger, but only some.
“God told me. He told me why. And I will never forgive them.”
Kristi reached over and took his hands again. He accepted her hands holding his. And they sat there for a while, slowly regaining their normal breaths, trying to calm the unstabilized beatings in their chests, and Kristi desperate to understand what she knew he was not likely to ever tell her.