Wish You Were Here

By Sunni Wilkinson

May 28, 2018

Wish You Were Here

Our three-year-old sits on my husband's shoulders, bouncing. Red rock and yellow cottonwood trees and blue sky surround us. Fall break in Capitol Reef, Utah, and we're winding up a trail we’ve never hiked before to see an arch, a natural bridge, named for Butch Cassidy, the renegade for whom this red rock was a refuge, a hideout. He was here, but you couldn’t see him. He was as quiet as the wind. 

The day before, three-year-old Cooper said half a dozen times, “I wish Jude was here,” and each time it hurt. Stillborn four months ago, Jude was the good I’d carried inside me, the good we’d felt stirring, the good we held at the hospital, cold and ashen, in our arms. 

Now the trees turn themselves into fire again, the red rock glows in the afternoon sun, the canyon breathes cool air, and we walk through all of it. At the top is the arch made from years of wind, but from above it looks like a giant hole in the mountainside. My friend once said losing a child is like stepping around a hole all your life. And the hole here is big. It only takes a minute to walk out and over the bridge, but through the lens of the camera, it looks far. My two older sons and I walk toward the center of the bridge, against the wind, against the long drop down, and stand for a picture. It’s dangerous, but we go carefully. My husband, on the other side, snaps a photo. We can’t see each other perfectly, but we wave anyway. We’re not as far as we seem. The world around us fills with light. A bridge in the sky. A hole the wind passes through. A place to cross over.

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