Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes
And save your questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away
This was a place no parent wanted to be, the place they least expected to end up.
And yet, here they were, she leaning on him, both of them holding wads of tissues to their faces.
It was a private ceremony for obvious reasons; no matter how famous he was, and her by proxy, this was not something to be shared with the rest of the world, let alone the rest of New York.
As the pint-sized casket was carried past the grieving parents by her favourite aunts and uncles, she couldn’t help but let out a loud sob, burying her face in her husband’s chest. He dropped his face into her long hair, unashamedly letting the tears fall. He reached out for the red-head crying next to them, bringing her into his chest to cry with them.
Kate’s right arm was wrapped around Rick’s waist, holding him as close as she could; her other arm was wrapped around her son’s body, holding him to their legs. The four year old didn’t quite understand what was going on, but knew enough to sob quietly like his parents.
“Come on honey, it’s time to say goodbye,” Lanie came up behind her, stroking her back gently. Kate squeezed her eyes closed, forcing the tears into Rick’s shirt, shaking her head in protest.
“I can’t,” she choked out. “If I say goodbye, then that makes it real.”
“Kate, we have to,” Rick whispered into her hair. “She wouldn’t have wanted us to cry like this.”
“How do you know that?” she spat out, lifting her head to look into her husband’s eyes; she had foregone heels today, and standing flat-footed meant she had to look up. “She’s four years old, Rick! She couldn’t have known that!”
“Mommy,” the little boy clinging to her legs whined. “Mommy.”
She bent down to pick him up, making Matthew nuzzle into her neck for comfort. “Rick, we have to do something.”
“Mom, we have to say goodbye to Evvie,” Alexis whispered from next to her, still wrapped in her father’s embrace. “We have to say goodbye.”
Kate looked at her daughter and nodded. She knew it, they all knew it, yet they couldn’t bear to face it. “Okay,” she whispered. “Okay.”
She shifted Matthew on her hip in order to carry him better, and the four of them started walking slowly out of the chapel towards the small gathering of people.
Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an Emerald Bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark and deep inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me
It was a beautiful, sunny day, the type Evelyn Johanna Castle loved. She loved to run around in Central Park, chasing butterflies, and her twin brother, until she couldn’t run any more. She loved to play rough and tumble with her father, who was still no more grown up than the day Kate met him. She loved to read books in the sun with her mother, sitting comfortably in her lap, learning letters, numbers and words as they went along.
It was a perfect day for burying Evelyn, yet Kate didn’t want to do it. It was her favourite type of day, one that didn’t happen often enough for any of their liking, and yet somehow, Kate could feel her daughter looking down on them, smiling.
They reached the plot designated for their daughter, their family parting to let them through to the side directly next to her casket. The ranks immediately filled in behind them again, and Rick couldn’t be more grateful for their support. He felt Alexis pull slightly away from him to be comforted by her own partner. Rick shared a smile with the other man, grateful his older daughter had someone she could lean on, and pulled Matthew out of Kate’s arms.
The minister stood at the top of the casket, where Evelyn’s head of curly brunette locks would be, hidden beneath the oak lid and tumbling sunflowers, ready to bless the little girl take before her time.
Kate could barely hear him as she stared at the flowers sitting on top of her casket; she had always loved sunflowers, and always wanted to pick some whenever she saw them. It was only fitting they buried her with them.
“And now, Evelyn’s mother would like to say a few words.”
Kate’s head snapped up at the mention, and she remembered. Pulling the pre-written speech out of her husband’s suit pocket, she stepped forward to take the minister’s place.
“Evelyn, though she was only four years old when leukaemia took her from us, wouldn’t want us to be sad today,” she began softly, her voice stumbling over the words. She didn’t even bother trying to his the tears rolling down her cheeks; everyone present had seen them before, and she was past embarrassment. “She would want us to remember the good times we all had with her; building forts in the living room while it rained, playing in Central Park when it didn’t, and everything in between. She would want us to remember how her face always lit up when she saw a sunflower, and how when she stopped to smell one, this angelic look just overcame her face, like there was nothing better in the world.” She stopped, unable to speak or read through the tears.
Someone passed her a tissue and she dabbed her eyes, smearing the make-up even more. “She would want us to remember how much we loved her, and how much she loved us, even though she had to leave us behind,” her voice cracked at this comment, and she brought a hand up to her mouth to smother the sob. “Evvie, baby, we will never forget your beautiful smile, your amazing sense of humour, your stubborn streak and your tendency for pranks. We will never forget your tolerance and love for your brother, your admiration and adoration of your older sister, and your tendency to love everyone and everything. We regret not having the privilege to witness you grow up into a gorgeous young woman, but we know you will always be watching over us from above. Goodbye my angel,” she whispered the last sentence, completely breaking down at the end of her goodbye.
She all but ran back to Rick, Alexis and Matthew, all of them hugging each other to the point of no return, the hole in their hearts gaping open for Evelyn.
The minister retook his place, wiping a few stray tears from his face as he did so. “The Castle’s have chosen to say goodbye to Evelyn through a song; I ask you all to stand as she is interred into the ground forever more.”
The contingent or mourners stood as the first strains of Billy Joel’s Lullaby began to play softly around them; it was her favourite song, the only one which would help her rest while she was in pain.
“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”
Kate drowned him out as she focused on her daughter’s lowering casket, and the low, welcoming tones of Billy Joel as they farewelled their daughter.
Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart, there will always be a part of me
Someday we’ll all be gone, but lullabyes go on and on
They never die, that’s how you and I will be
**A few weeks later**
Alexis knew she wasn’t supposed to be there, but she missed her sister’s happiness; the loft wasn’t the same without her, and their parents were still mourning her loss.
“Hi Evvie,” she took a seat on the rich, green grass next to the newly erected headstone. “I needed to come down and talk to you, because I can’t talk to Mom and Dad, not yet, anyway.” She paused to run a hand through her long, red hair, letting the tears fall down her cheeks without care.
“Simon proposed to me last night, Evvie,” she whispered, running her fingertips through the grass. “He did it at Central Park, in that space of grass you loved so much. It was sunset, and we were lying there, just looking up at the sky. I was thinking about you, and how much you would have loved the sight, when he rolled over and just asked me to marry him, then and there. And Evvie, I said yes! I know how much you loved Simon, and he loved you too, so I knew you would approve. But the thing is, the first person I wanted to tell was you. I wanted to run you to your room, gather you up in my arms, and show you this beautiful diamond ring he gave me. But I suppose I can’t do that anymore; I have to come here and tell you all about it instead.”
She stopped and sighed, not looking at anything other than the grass she was sitting on.
“I miss you so much, Evvie, so much I can’t even describe it. I love you; rest in peace.”
She felt the breeze around her pick up, and she looked up to the marble headstone, smiling once she read the inscription.
Evelyn Johanna Castle
14 January 2013 – 17 March 2017
Sister of Matthew Richard and Alexis Harper
Daughter of Richard Edgar and Katherine Rose
Granddaughter of Martha and James
Goodbye My Angel