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23
Crossing Over


The headstone was carved of a strange and wonderful kind of stone rarely used, of a translucent white with a soft light within, a veining of violet and gold. It was easy to carve but virtually impossible to chip or break. A niche was carved into it to hold the star-glass, and under it read: IN LOVING MEMORY OF PRINCE IORHAEL, ONCE KNOWN AS FRODO BAGGINS OF THE SHIRE. MAY HIS LIGHT SHINE IN OUR MIDST UNTIL THE END OF ALL THINGS.

It was carved by Annûnlanthir, and set near the place that bore the monument of Mister Frodo’s sister. The glass was not placed in the niche, for Sam wished to keep it with him until it was his time to go. But he planted a garden all about of all the flowers Mister Frodo liked best. And was careful to leave room for when he and Mistress Anemone would lie on either side.

Belladonna came to live with Anemone after the funeral, bringing little Peacock with her, and Northlight and Raven took Sam to live with them. He was set up in a cozy little alcove along with an adjoining chamber that served him as a sitting-room, affording him a view of the falls, and also a little patio of his own with a long chair, a smaller chair and a round table. There was a bathing-room and privy directly across the hall, and the others told him to help himself to anything in the kitchen should the pangs of hunger strike. Their bedroom was upstairs, but Northlight rigged up a bell to ring, with a chain going through a little hole in the floor, if Sam should need something he could not get for himself in the night.

He proved a great comfort to Amaryllis, bringing her granddad back to life for her in all the stories he told of Mister Frodo’s childhood and early youth and young adulthood, and it was wonderful that she loved the stories as he did, and Amaryllis grew nearly as attached to him as she had been to Mister Frodo. This worried him, for the time would come when she must endure another loss, and he wondered how he would go about preparing her for that….

Imrathon brought a kitten over one day, after their barn cat had a litter, so that Sam would have a constant companion for his chambers. He hadn’t thought to have a cat, but she grew on him quick enough, affording plenty of amusement with her antics by day, cuddling in his lap or beside him in his bed at night and purring into his ear and massaging him with her paws. He named her “Ginger” for her yellowy fur, and he greatly enjoyed watching Amaryllis play with her and say things like “Aren’t you just too cute for words?” Sometimes Ginger would just sit on her haunches and gaze at him with gold-green eyes full of soft unswerving fondness, until Sam, who was not used to cats, would be filled with wonder.

And even as Mister Frodo predicted, he was there when little Hathol was born, and having assisted in the delivery of a few of his own children and grandchildren, he knew just what to do when Raven went into labor unexpectedly. He would hold the child and rock it to sleep when its mother worked, and comforted Amaryllis for her disappointment in not getting the little sister she wanted. And he heard little Hathol’s first words and saw his first steps, and bounced him on his knee and sang silly little songs to him. The little one looked just like his daddy, to everyone’s delight, so that even Amaryllis took to him before long, to the point where she would often change his nappy without being asked, and take him for walks in his pram, and even speak proudly at times of “her baby brother.” And Sam loved him as one of his own.

Sam it was who performed the wedding of Ionwë and Calathiel, two years after the passing of Mister Frodo, and gave them counsel in the matter of dealing with Ionwë’s parents, who of course were less than ecstatic over their son’s choice of a mate. Sam privately thought they should be glad he had found someone to love at all; it was not as if every maiden on the Island were falling all over herself to get at him! But by and by Calathiel gave birth to twins, boy and girl, who were given the names of Ionwë’s parents, and thus the breech in the family was eventually healed. Gandalf and Ríannor had the care of Sadron and Mirwen, and were talking seriously of adopting them, at Arasirion's suggestion.

Sam it was who gave counsel to Raven’s friend and former teacher, the artist Findëmaxa, when finally she acquired a suitor, and confided to him that she had serious misgivings, having pledged herself to embrace chastity all her days. At first he scarcely knew what to say. The concept of embracing chastity was entirely foreign to him, and he saw no sense in it, but he reminded hisself that it wasn’t always a good idea to say all you were thinking.

“Meanin’ no disrespect, my lady,” he said, “but I think you’ve embraced chastity long enough. I don’t think human bein’s was meant to embrace chastity. Not for all their days, at least. They was made to embrace each other. You don’t see a doe-deer or a mare or a ewe embracin’ chastity, now do you? It’s unnat’ral. They was made to mate and bear young.”

“Well--I know that,” Findëmaxa said, blushing a little. “But we are not animals, and I’ve sometimes felt that I was destined for Higher Things, you know? To fully contemplate all the beauties and glories of Creation, and uphold them to a high standard of purity and light and glory. You know, that sort of thing?”

Sam didn’t quite know what she was talking about, and it sounded like stuff and nonsense to him, but once more he bit his tongue and continued: “Couldn’t you uphold ‘em and be married at the same time?”

“Well, I don’t know,” she hedged. “Sometimes I’ve thought one could, but…I’ve always heard that True Love is a beautiful and holy thing, but I’ve also felt that there was something, well, earthy about it. Something removed from the far reaches of the Divine. How can one’s spirit hope to soar above the clods of the earth when one has given oneself over to Fleshly Appetites? That’s what worries me. Yes, I know that Londimir adores me and conceives of me as his ideal of Divine Maidenhood, far removed from The Reaches of This World. And I’m afraid that I cannot live up to his ideal. Perhaps I should not be saying all this to you but…somehow it just came pouring out of me.”

“My lady,” Sam said, “I’m not sure I understand all you’re sayin’, but I will say this: there ain’t nothin’ diviner and holier than true love and marryin’ and begettin’ children and watchin’ ‘em grow and noticin’ all the things about yourself and your mate in ‘em. It IS a dangerous thing and no mistakin’, and not a thing to take lightly. It takes a lot of work, and listenin’, and understandin’, and endurin’, and learnin’ from your mistakes, and puttin’ up with plenty, and wonderin’ if you’re doin’ the right thing and tryin’ not to blame yourself when things don’t go the way you want ‘em to. Now I don’t care if a body don’t wish to be married, it’s their own business and I don’t tell folks how to live their lives. But you did ask me what I thought about it, and this is it. Do you truly wish to wed...Londimir?”

He thought this Londimir sounded like a silly young piece of foolishness and she could surely do better, but….

“Well, on the one hand, I do,” she said, “but even as you said, it’s no light undertaking. I cherish my ideals and don’t wish to let go of them, and cannot help but feel misgivings at the thought of breaking my resolutions to hold myself aloft and all.”

“My lady, I don’t think you’re ready for marryin’, if I may say so,” Sam said. “I would say, give yourself more time. Get to know your feller better. Discuss your feelin’s with him and don’t hold nothin’ back. Let him know you for what you really are. Bein’ a artist and all, maybe you have too much imagination, and you keep thinkin’ about all the things that could go wrong even when you’re tryin’ not to. As for the fleshly things, maybe you think too much about the things theirselves and not the lovin’ that goes with ‘em. It makes all the differ’nce in the world.”

“Sometimes I think it’s life itself I’m afraid of,” she sighed. “You’re probably right, I have too much imagination, and am afraid of getting hurt, and of not being able to measure up, and of…well, failure. But I don’t know how to overcome it.”

“Mister Frodo used to say the sea was like life itself,” Sam recalled. “He heard the call of the Sea, and so did I. I’m assumin’ you did too, since you come here and all. I think those who hear the call of the Sea are really hearin’ the call of life itself. It takes a special person to hear that call and answer it, resistin’ for the longest perhaps, but in the end givin’ into it, for it’s their truest destiny. I feared the Sea more than anything, but once I crossed over, then I lost all my fear and knew I’d done what I was meant to do and had no regrets. But it’s not somethin’ you take lightly. You hear the call, you make up your mind to it, and you go. Then when you get there…well, then you know you’ve arrived and you can do anything you must, and you’ll know it was worth crossin’ for. That's how you overcome it--by just jumpin’ in and doin’ what needs to be done.”

After that Findëmaxa went back to seeing Londimir. Sam would not live to know if she accepted him or not, but he had a feeling she was making a start, and that she would end up taking his advice in the long run....

And he heard of the beheading of Beleg and Raegbund. He would never know who did the job, for the executioner’s name was withheld from the public, and it gave him pause at times wondering who of the comers and goers he saw each day it could have been, and what he must think, knowing he had shed blood, even if it was evil blood, and how it was he slept in his bed of nights, what he thought and dreamt about, and if he had a wife and children, and Sam felt thankful that in all his years as mayor he’d never had to make the decision to deprive another of his life....

And when Galendur and Tilwen had their third child, another little lass, they asked Sam to name her, sensing that he might like to bestow one last gift before he quit the earth forever. And Sam named her Meril, both for the lady who lost her life in the fire and after his own Rose, and Amaryllis said she had thought of that name also. It was as if they were kindred souls, she said…and so they were.

And he and Anemone frequently sat on his porch and talked quietly, and sometimes sat in silence communing only with their minds. They did not marry, but remained the best of friends for all their days. Sam told her what he knew of Greenjade, having heard tell of him from King Elessar as he was now known. Anemone listened in profoundest gratitude, Amaryllis and Raven and Northlight sitting by in awe and wonder while little Hathol sat at Sam's feet playing with Ginger.

But at last when Sam began to find he could not use his legs so well anymore but had to take to a wheelchair, he decided his day had come. He had made up his mind to be a burden to no one; when the time came that he would have to be pushed and lugged about like a little ‘un, well, that’s when he would go. And so, five years after the passing of his former master, one night after Amaryllis and little Hathol were in bed and Anemone had gone home, he called Northlight and Raven into his sitting-room, and told them he could hear Mister Frodo up there calling him a slowpoke. They sat with him and held his hands, and talked softly of how it would be for a few minutes, and Ginger climbed into his lap and rubbed her face against his cheek. He asked the others to take especial care of her, and they took him to his bed and tucked him in, and Raven put Rosie-doll beside him, set the star-glass on his bed-table and kissed his forehead, then Northlight did the same, both smiling down at him despite the tears glittering on their faces like dew-drops on beautiful flowers. After they had gone out, Sam looked at the light in the glass, and saw a blinding white tunnel, and yes, a stairway, lit by stars going all up it, and faces along the way, and at the very top a light brighter than the sun itself.

And the next morning they found him lying there and smiling, Ginger curled up asleep on his stomach, the light gone out…but his own light lingered about him still, like the last glow of the setting sun.

~*~*~

When at last Belladonna found a worthy mate among the Elves, Anemone moved out of the cottage, despite the protests of the bridal couple that she was more than welcome to stay, and she went to live in the rooms Sam had once occupied. She no longer designed clothes, having no more heart for it, and she rarely wrote poems, but still she had plenty to keep her busy, and took comfort and joy in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren for all the remaining years of her life. And once more Amaryllis had the comfort of one who was willing to talk of her granddad. Northlight went back to his teaching job and was heartily welcomed, and Hathol proved a very intelligent little lad, and kept his grandmum jumping with the things he said and did. And Peacock was by contrast a wild little scamp who kept his cousin stirred up, and things did not get dull, and so her remaining years were full of activity and contentment and love and hope, surrounded by devoted friends and family and the beauty and virtue of the Island itself. She lived to see Perhael acquire a little sister and Arasirion a brother, and many other births, the marriage of Imrathon and her granddaughter Melda, and Dínlad's with Elanor, as well as the betrothals of Arasirion and Luthien...and of Amaryllis and not-so-little Iorhael.

And she was calm and happy as she watched the couples plight their troth in the Temple, and at the celebration party, she glanced aside and saw Tilwen and Raven watching her, and saw that they knew she would not be there for the weddings. She had thought to go that very night, but decided to wait a few weeks so as not to blight everyone's joy. And then she heard Amaryllis say to Meril that she was certain that Silivren and Young Amonost were sweet on each other and did not know it yet, and wasn't it funny that Silivren would be not only her sister-in-law but her cousin-in-law as well, and that struck the little girl as hilarious and she was overcome with giggles which made Tilwen smile with tears in her eyes....

And Anemone was at once happy and sad that life would go on without her.

And twenty years after the death of her husband, when her son and daughter did not find her in her room one morning, they followed her footprints out to the beach, and there by the little cave where she and her bridegroom first consummated their love, she was found lying on her side with a little smile on her face, her silvered hair spread out behind her on the white and accommodating sand, one hand softly holding to her wedding-pearls. She was buried on the left side of her husband, and the star-glass was placed in the niche, where it lit itself each night, and gave a daylight glow to the three graves and the flowers and trees all around.

The Evenstar pendant passed to Raven, the pearls laid away for Amaryllis. Belladonna and her husband and their children attended to the three graves. And the Beacon continued to glow in the night, sending its beams far out over the sea and into the colors of the aurora and the heart of the evening star, which seemed to take on new brilliance in the indigo bath of the night sky, until it really did seem as though it would be returning to its true home at last.

~*~Finis~*~

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

--Tennyson




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