Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrene and Lyceus belong to
MCA/Universal, and are used without intent for commercial profits. This is not a
happy tale, but one that rings of true human emotion. It
is the final sequel to "Tribute of Love." Dedication: To my beloved mother Christine. You have made me who I am today. The world will be a sadder place without you.
The Solstice of Redemption
She is finally at peace. I have prayed for this day so many times, knowing that she would never want her life to deteriorate into mere the existence it had become. And yet, now that it has come to pass, I find that I wish she was still here on this plain where I can touch her, hold her and see the spark of her indomitable spirit each day.
I dream. Terrible images of her last days fill my sleep until I wake to escape the pain. Morpheus has not been kind to me and so I continue to be as exhausted as ever. I would wish that my dreams were filled instead with images of her with Lyceus laughing and loving in Elysium. Perhaps Morpheus is not totally to blame in this; my old desires to punish myself seem to hold sway over the path I take in my dreams.
Gabrielle tells me that I have no reason for guilt over Cyrene, and she is right. For once in my life I have done the right thing regardless of the effect on me. Cyrene was cared for tenderly and with love in her own home until the moment Celesta came for her. And in the end, I pushed my selfishness aside to release her. I held her hand as I pleaded with Celesta to come, begged Lyceus to be there to greet her, even asked Eli’s God to ease her passing.
And so, for the first time in many years, I face the coming Solstice without her. But I am slowly discovering the gifts she left for me, as well hidden as when I was a child. She has freed my soul and left me with the mysterious ability to forgive. My anger is gone; she took that with her as if it were a final kiss of peace.
I have no guilt. For once, I was present. I loved and cared for her every need as I was capable. I did not run, though the urge was ever present and often overwhelming. I did whatever was needed and perhaps, much that was not. With each passing day, as she grew more despondent, I became more attentive. She told me many things then, but I had to listen carefully as her meaning was not always clear. The day she told me I was beautiful, I immediately understood that she was seeing into my soul and hope flickered in my heart. Hope that it is possible for me to escape the ravages of my past.
She told me each day that she loved me. When she could no longer find the words, her eyes and her smile made the message clear. Cyrene was a friend of the Gods and never stopped praying for their protection. Not for herself, but for me.
Several weeks before her passing, I found the courage to tell her it was alright to move on, to turn away from me and toward the Fields. Yet the first time she stopped breathing I held her in my panic and begged her not to leave. I told her I needed her and I cried like a child. For this, she turned her back on the light and returned to endure more weeks of suffering. I felt ashamed that I had done this and told her so. Told her that I was sorry I had brought her back with my raw need and promised to let go. Still she stayed.
In all this, my Gabrielle suffered too. She helped me care for Cyrene and had little of my time and attention. She tried to make little things special. Giving me small gifts that she believed would distract me from my sadness, if only for a moment. For this, she received little or no reward. I was so often closed to her I now wonder why she stayed. She tells me that it is love and I cannot believe that I am worthy. Her devotion went beyond love; she has shared the experience with me right to the last moment.
I dreamed. I dreamed that we would be lighting Cyrene’s funeral pyre in the snow. The images were so real I could feel the cold and dampness through my boots as I stood and watched the flames leap high into the night. I could feel the weight of my winter cloak hanging from my shoulders, yet it did not ward against the cold within. It never snows in Amphipolis before Solstice so I thought there was more time.
The day came a few weeks before Solstice. Grey skies and dampness in the air heralded the snow storm to come. Cyrene had been eating less, losing weight, sleeping more – all the signs the healer had spoken of. She had had several fevers in recent days, but always the herbs managed to break them. This time, nothing worked. The healer was with her for hours that night, only sleeping a little before returning with the dawn. Gabrielle sat with her and I took short naps between checking her fever and giving her the herbs. It started to snow just after midnight and I knew that Celesta would soon be coming for her.
They say the dead can hear our thoughts and I pray that is true. For I want Cyrene to finally know the depth of my love for her. I need her to know the profound effect she has had on my redemption. I hope that she can feel that she is in my thoughts everyday, now and forever.
As I breathed my first breath, we touched.
When my eyes were unable to focus
And could only follow the sound of your voice,
When I could squeeze only your finger
But not your entire hand,
When I could only express my wants and needs
With the sharp cries of an infant,
As you held me close to the warmth of your body,
Keeping me safe, we could touch.
When you could no longer speak or understand,
No longer gesture your wants and needs,
When you could no longer speak to me with your eyes
Or sooth me with your smile,
When you could no longer squeeze my hand
Or kiss my cheek with your warm lips,
When you could no longer see me
Though your eyes never left mine, we could touch.
As you breathed your last breath, we touched.
Return to The Bard's Corner