They had been waiting since sunrise before hearing the news of their daughter’s outcome. The plane she was in was shot down in Afghanistan, and there were no survivors. They heard a knock at the door, and found two soldiers on the other side of the screen door. They were there to deliver the bad news to Mary and John. One of the soldiers said, “Your daughter’s remains were found. We are sorry for your loss.” They stood their motionless almost feeling that life stood still. The sound of Mary’s cry broke the silence as she fell to the floor. She sobbed uncontrollably as John hovered over her body. He wanted to shield her from the pain, but he too began to sob. The officers remained on the other side of the screen with their heads bowed down, and arms folded in front of their bodies. One of the officers was thinking to himself, “No matter how many times I do this, it doesn’t get easier.” The other officer was thinking of his own daughter. They were the same age, twenty years old.
“I can’t believe she is gone. Our little girl is gone John.” They stood by the door holding each other. As they walked to the couch in the living room, they came across pictures of Gloria. Mary grabbed one of the pictures she took when Gloria was in the fourth grade, and held it close to her chest. She started to reminisce when Gloria decided she wanted to wear the yellow dress for the picture Mary was holding. She told her mom that it made her feel like a beautiful flower. She had two braids hanging down with yellow ribbons holding her braids together. The picture became blurry as tears hit the frame. John took care of calling the family members, including their older son, Steven. He became angry as he heard the news, “Dad, I told her this was not the only way to become a journalist. I told her not to go.” There was a moment of silence then, through sniffles, Steven told his dad he would be right over. John took care of calling the rest of the family. Mary walked over to her room to get ready. They were expecting family to arrive within hours. John found himself sitting alone in between calls, and memories started flooding his mind. He remembered when she graduated from high school, she whispered in his ear, “Daddio you are my inspiration, and I know people say that parents can’t be their kid’s best friends, but you are my best friend.” After taking a deep breath, he said out loud, “You were the best in my life.” He caught himself using the word “were” and felt a sharp pain in his throat traveling down to his chest. He began to tremble as he buried his face in his hands. Mary was in the shower longer than usual. Her face remained under the shower nozzle with her eyes closed. She couldn’t differentiate the drops rolling down her face, because her tears were coming down just as hard as the water that was releasing from the nozzle. She remembered the first day her baby started school. Gloria was being the brave one telling her mom, “It’s ok mom, you can go. I’ll be fine.” She remembered her walking bravely to her classroom. Mary squatted on the tub hugging her legs and whispered, “I love you baby.”
Mary and John decided to have a private service only for friends and family. They wanted to have something intimate to make sure they all grieved in peace. The space was decorated with the most beautiful roses of every color. Roses were Gloria’s favorite flowers. The guest were given the choice to bring their own arrangements to put around the casket. Steven and John asked Mary if she wanted to be the first to speak. They were all heartbroken, and wanted to make sure they were taking care of each other. Mary, Steven and John walked over to the podium. Mary stood in front of the microphone, and john and Steven stood on each side holding her hand. Mary spoke softly as she thanked the guest for attending such sad but special event. She continued by saying, “We are gathered here today because Gloria Hernandez has touched our lives, and has left an impression on us. I know her passing has left a void in my heart, and I will miss her terribly.” Her voice was shaky, and her hands were trembling. She continued, “Gloria did not agree to this war after spending nine months in Afghanistan, but she fell in love with the people there, and felt that she had a responsibility to someday tell their stories. We are proud of her bravery, and her commitment to finish the task that she started.” Mary looked down for a while fighting the tears, then she looked up and said, “Darling, I miss you so much, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being my daughter. You made me happy every single day. I cannot wait until the day we see each other again.” She wiped her tears that were now streaming down her face. She continued, “I cannot wait to hold you in my arms again. I love you, Gloria.”