I’m haunted by her last words “Please don’t go”
As I slowly backed my car down her driveway.
The look of deep pain owned her face in that moment
Yet I kept on going, mouthing “I have to…”
Now twenty-two years later I wonder
Did I do the right thing?
I abandoned the love of the only woman who ever truly loved me
The only woman who knew me, really knew me, from birth to her death.
I missed out on all the years of post-school freedom
Missed taking her out to lunch and driving to the creek
Missed learning her secrets that she didn’t dare share when I was younger
Missed sixteen years of her and that sweet sunshine.
Every now and then I’d call her up when I couldn’t bake the cake
Couldn’t make the potato salad or get the baby’s quilt just right
Couldn’t remember how the line of the old country songs went
Or sometimes I called just to hear her Southern voice and laughter.
She always sounded like the Pillsbury Doughboy when she laughed
And I used to keep a doll of him in my kitchen as a reminder.
I pasted her recipes written in her handwriting in my cookbooks
And decorated my living room with her crochet work.
My kids wore booties, sweaters, caps, and blankets that she made.
We took photos together with them when I visited
But that pain in her eyes never left whenever I came to visit.
It still said, “Please don’t go,” and yet I kept on going, every single time.
Now I lie in bed and stare at my piano through a flood of tears —
The one that I bought because she taught me to love music
The one that I bought while living in the city and missing her sweet home.
And tears are all I have to caress my face now, her hand has been laid to rest.
I remember taking her down to Paw Paw’s grave to visit him.
I had to beg and plead to get her in the car to go down the old dirt road.
We stayed a while at the family cemetery, but she really didn’t want to be there.
I didn’t understand it then, but I do now that she’s resting there with him.
When you love someone, you want to keep them alive in your memories.
You don’t want to see or be reminded of their finality.
You want to hold them in your heart and mind as long as you can, alive and laughing…
“Please don’t go,” you think as their music plays in your head.
Rachel Kertz was born in a small town in Missouri in 1988. While earning her degree at Southeast Missouri State University, she became interested in photography and began using her commutes as excuses to go on long drives through the rural countrysides, hoping to find locations and abandoned houses to photograph. She hopes to convey relatable stories in her images that speak to her audience on themes such as loneliness, love, exploration, and the feeling of being alone in unconventionally beautiful places. You can find more of her work on Flickr.