P R O T E C T E D

I didn’t tell them where I was going, only said I’d be gone all day. I drove through fog and twisted mountains for three hours to enter iron gates, park, and visit her grave.

I didn’t know where else to go, who else to tell that would care to listen, who would understand that what sounded like a complaint was really visceral fear. I needed to touch something besides the walls inside my mind, and even though she wasn’t there, I found comfort in the hardness of her headstone.

The world felt too hard, and my heart felt too soft. I needed to be near warmth represented by something cold, immovable, and solid, something to prove how literal life and death can be. I needed her, the spirits, the trees, and the soil beneath my knees in the reassurance that my end would not come in my softening as it had to those before me. I needed her to tell me it was okay to remove my armor and to stop holding my breath.

“Is it okay to let them see me cry?” I asked out loud to the empty graveyard.

“The stone rolled away a long time ago, and I’m tired of fighting to keep my heart covered, Grandma,” I whispered.

I sat next to her grave for an hour listening to the wind rustle through the trees before the tears came. They lingered as I listened, and when they stopped, I felt better.

“Thank you, Grandma,” I said, smiling. Getting up, I walked back to my car for the long drive home.

The soil, trees, my Grandma and the spirits reminded me that in all moments I was being held and protected, that I never needed to wield a sword, that the softness in my heart was the only armor I needed and that it was okay to let them see me cry.

They reminded me that although the world appears hard, many have the same fear of dying in the revelation of their softness and in the flowing of their tears.

We don’t need to take long drives to free our hearts, but there are always others we can drive to, and with an embrace, help them free theirs.