"Hurry up!" I heard someone call as they ran past my open window. "You will be late."
Buttoning my shirt, I grabbed my scroll and raced out the door. The air swirled with crisp leaves that chased us down the street to the wide, green, expanse known to everyone as the Launch. A small crowd had already formed, and the Guides were having difficulty handing out the umbrellas in the crush. I knew that it was one umbrella per person, and I fidgeted as I waited in line, anxious that I would not be able to get one. I did not want to wait another year! A somber Guide finally handed me an umbrella, and I released the breath I had been holding as I went to stand on the Launch with the others.
Today was the day.
I wrapped my scroll around the curve of the umbrella handle, and as I waited for the call of the Guides, I thought of my father, the soul I would release today. I thought of my anger over his suicide, my incoherent rage at his inability to face life. I had held onto that anger for years, tethering my father's soul to the earth as punishment for his abandonment of his family. Of me. It was my right to do so. Tethering the souls to the earth was the traditional punishment for suicides. After so many years of anger, however, I finally understood that my own anger would kill me, my own form of suicide.
I had to let go of my father's soul so that I could live as he never had the courage to attempt.
The sound of the Guide's prayer rolled over me, a wave of forgiveness. The Guides moved through the crowd as they sang, stationing themselves at intervals to help those who were unable to place their scrolls. Woven into each scroll was the soul of a loved one; not everyone was as eager as I was to say goodbye, but there would be no going back for any of us.
Today was the day.
The prayer ended. All of us snapped our umbrellas open, and as one, lifted them above our heads. Let the winds guide all souls home, came the call, and the crisp fall wind gently lifted our umbrellas. The souls rose, weightless, high above us, pulled by an unseen hand, until we could see them no more. I felt the invisible cord, the one that held my father chained to me for so long, give with an audible snap.
I could hear the sounds of sobbing around me, but my heart felt too light for tears.