A WALK TO REMEMBER: AN EPILOGUE
Landon Carter died peacefully in
his sleep at the age of 86. He died not as an unremembered man in a
small town, but rather he would be remembered by many as both a good friend
and as a famous medical researcher. He not only made it out of Beaufort
as he had hoped, but became a doctor and played a part in many important
medical breakthroughs that occurred in his lifetime. Landon was guided
by Jamie’s words every step of the way: “… you can do anything.”
Landon’s funeral was held in Beaufort,
so he could finally be laid to rest in the plot he had reserved next to Jamie’s.
His memorial ceremony was held in the same Baptist church where Jamie’s parents
were married, where he and Jamie were married, and where everyone had gathered
sixty-eight years earlier to remember Jamie. The small church had been
expanded several times in the years since Jamie and Landon were married there,
but the crowd that gathered to honor Landon still filled the main sanctuary.
There were doctors who had worked with Landon, as well as those of his friends
from medical school who were still alive. Not many of Landon’s friends
from high school survived him, but there were the faithful few, Eric and
Belinda included. The children and grandchildren of those who had already
passed also came, many of them remembering Landon more as an uncle than as
a family friend. Eric had been chosen to deliver the eulogy.
Time had taken its toll on him; his hair had turned to white and he walked
with a slight limp. He still stood proud, however, as he made his way
to the pulpit to speak in remembrance of his best friend.
“Landon Carter was a great doctor,”
Eric began. “You can see that if you just look around and see how many
other doctors are here to remember him. But more than that, Landon
was a wonderful friend, whether we were riding our bikes around the neighborhood
in first grade, working on cars or just being lazy in high school, or getting
together for a soda on some warm summer day. He was a brilliant man,
more so I think than any of his friends (myself included) had realized when
we were younger. I mean - I never would’ve thought when we were at
Beaufort High that Landon would be famous for developing an amazing medical
treatment.” Eric paused. “At least, not if it hadn’t been for
Jamie. I’ll always remember the day when, we decided to pull a prank
on Jamie and hand out flyers of her face on some swimsuit model’s body.
I’ll never forget the look on Landon’s face when he found out, or the surprise
we all felt when we saw him punch out Dean and walk away from us. I
don’t think any of us really understood at the time, but Jamie really changed
him. It was only later that we found out Landon had more love in his
heart than we knew. More than I think even he could understand.
Even after Landon and Jamie got married, I don’t think I understood fully.
Not until the day when he and I were just lounging in his living room, drinking
some lemonade, when the phone call came telling Landon that the medical community
had approved his treatment for leukemia. He looked up at me with tears
in his eyes, and when they asked him what to call the treatment, he could
only say one word: ‘Jamie’. That’s when I understood what Landon Carter
was all about. He was a man full of caring, respect, and love.
He even found it in himself….” Eric trailed off, wiping a tear from
the corner of his eye. “He even found it in himself to forgive us for
all of the terrible things we did to him and Jamie in high school.
I’m thankful every day that he was such a good person. I don’t know
what I would’ve done without my best friend.”
After Eric left the stage, the gathering
of people proceeded to say their individual goodbyes to Landon. As
the people passed by, a lone piano in the sanctuary sang out the notes of
“Only Hope”, the song Landon had requested to be played at his funeral many
years earlier. The coffin was lifted into a limousine, and the procession
went on to the cemetery where Landon and Jamie had spent so many hours looking
toward the heavens. After the prayers were recited, Landon Carter’s
body was laid to rest beside that of his wife.
Landon Carter opened his eyes and
slowly, almost agonizingly rolled out of bed. He looked around, but
he couldn’t quite see clearly. He felt the same as he did every morning,
but somehow different. As he got dressed and walked down the hallway,
he felt that he wasn’t really in his house - yet, it was the same house.
The same white, two-story house he and Jamie had moved into after their wedding.
The same home he had lived in since he left Beaufort when he was 18.
The furniture, the decorations were all the same as he had left them the
night before, but in a strange way they weren’t. As he walked down
the stairs, Landon tried desperately to clear his mind and to shake off the
cobwebs. But he couldn’t. His mind seemed cloudy, foggy.
The past and the present were suddenly all a blur to him, and he felt like
he couldn’t bring anything distinctly forward. When he got to the bottom
of the stairs, he thought he saw something move in the living room.
He rubbed his eyes, thinking maybe his blurry vision was just stopping him.
When he looked again though, he knew he wasn’t dreaming the first time.
The something was actually a someone, a young woman from the looks of things.
She turned to him and smiled.
The woman ran up to him and wrapped
her arms around him. Still confused, Landon tried to push her away.
Before he could, however, she looked up and kissed him. And then it
happened. The moment her lips met his, everything came rushing back
to him. He remembered being in kindergarten, watching as a small girl
with dark brown hair walked into the room and sat down. He remembered
his father leaving him and his mother. He remembered the crazy stunt
in his senior year of high school with Clay Gephardt. He remembered
spending the night in jail, and the following months with his leg in a cast.
He remembered being forced to help the janitor, tutor disadvantaged kids,
and participate in the school play. Most of all, he remembered Jamie.
He remembered blocking her out the first time she had tried to talk to him
on the bus. He remembered when she gave him a ride home after play
rehearsal and he had rudely dialed her radio to his own preference.
He remembered asking her to help him with his lines, only to blow her off
in public in front of his “cooler” friends. He remembered the play
and seeing Jamie in all of her beauty for the first time. He remembered
their first date, taking her to the state line, giving her a fake tattoo,
and kissing her at the pier. He remembered their wedding day, the joy
they both felt and the happiness they shared the following summer.
Landon also remembered the pain - the anger he felt when he found out about
her leukemia, the fear and uncertainty he felt when she passed out and was
taken to the hospital, and the loneliness he experienced for the many years
after she died. All of his memories flooded his mind in a wave - the
emotions, the people, the places. When he looked back at the woman,
he realized it wasn’t just any other person in his home, it was her.
It was Jamie. His Jamie. The love of his life. His wife.
It was then that Landon looked down
at his hands. They were no longer the wrinkled hands that had been
worn by time. His hands looked younger, stronger. He turned and
looked into the decorative mirror that sat on the wall next to the staircase.
The face he saw wasn’t the face of an old man. He was eighteen again.
He turned back to Jamie, and exploded in a burst of laughter and tears.
He pulled her close to him, holding her like he had wanted to do all those
years. She whispered in his ear, “I’ve been waiting so long for you.”
He looked deep into her eyes, and when he saw the loving sparkle that he
knew he had missed for a long time, he kissed her.
An hour after the funeral had ended,
Eric sat next to Landon’s grave, saying goodbye to his life-long friend.
“Hey buddy. I know it wasn’t
easy living all these years without her. But all that loneliness, all
the pain - it’s over now. You’re finally together. You’ve been
a great friend all these years, and I want to say thank you for all you’ve
done. I’ll miss you, but hopefully I won’t be lonely too long either.
I’m glad you’re finally with Jamie now. You belong together.”
As Eric got up to leave, drops of rain suddenly began falling from the sunny
sky. Eric laid his hand on Landon’s headstone once more, and looking
up to the sky, said, “Well Lord… I guess there really are tears in Heaven.
Happy ones at least.”
Landon lied back in bed, cradling
Jamie in his arms.
‘It’s been far too long,’ he thought
Jamie stirred and turned around to
face him. She kissed him lovingly, and said to him, “I’m so happy you’re
finally here. You’ve done so much with your life Landon, you have no
idea how proud of you I am.”
“Thank you, Jamie,” he replied.
“For everything. I might not
have discovered a treatment for leukemia, made it through medical school,
or even gotten out of Beaufort if it hadn’t been for you. I wouldn’t
be here now, that’s for sure. You saved my life Jamie, and you saved
my soul. I love you Jamie. I’ve never stopped loving you.”
“I love you too Landon, with all
my heart and soul.”
Jamie smiled, the same joyful smile
she had smiled when the two of them had gotten married. She looked
down at the wedding ring that had all but become a part of her, and then
back up at Landon. She wrapped her arms around him and said to him,
“Welcome home Landon.”