“And stay out of the tall grass, Jude. It’s crawling with snakes there,” Jude’s grandmother warned.
“Don’t worry, Nana,” Jude shouted, slamming the screen door shut behind him, as he ran out into the backyard.
Nana smiled with a hint of melancholy. She was proud of the way her six year old grandson was taking his loss. It was almost a year ago when his parents – Nana’s son and daughter-in-law – were killed in a car accident. Soon afterwards, Jude had moved from the city to live with her and Grandpa on their cattle station near Mount Archer. At first, she had been afraid that Jude would shut himself off, but the move to the country proved to be the perfect remedy. Jude had found solace in Nature.
Cat Stevens – The Wind;
Walking through the tall dry grass away from the paddock towards the bush, Jude felt a wonderful sense of peace come over him. The only sound he heard was the call of a lone currawong. It was going to be a hot one again today, he thought when the sun’s glaring rays reflecting from the water tank made him squint. He quickened his pace and sighed with relief once he reached the welcome shade of the trees. Listening carefully if he could already hear the small waterfall in the distance, he did not pay attention to where he was walking. No wonder that he was startled by the rustling of leaves to his right. He stopped dead in his tracks, tipped the rim of the Akubra hat he had inherited from his dad and was pleasantly surprised to see a lizard scurry across the path and on to a rock to his left.
He slowly approached it while taking the field guide that Grandpa had given him from his pocket. However, before he was able to identify the lizard, a voice sounded behind him:
“It’s an eastern water dragon.”
Jude spun round to find himself face to face with a boy who he reckoned was about his age. Funnily enough, Jude did not feel surprised by the sudden appearance of this stranger. In fact, the boy seemed familiar.
“Thanks,” Jude said.
“My name’s Jude,” the boy went on to say. “What’s yours?”
“Oh, really?. So’s mine,” Jude replied in surprise.
The boy smiled.
“How about that?”
For a moment Jude and the boy stood silently, both of them wondering what to say next. It was the boy who broke the silence.
“That’s a great book. My dad used to have one just like it. He let me take it with me when I came up here just like you.”
“That’s a coincidence,” Jude responded.
“Do you come up here often?” Jude asked.
“Hmm, not so much nowadays. Anyway, where do you live?”
“In the homestead with my nan and grandpa,” Jude replied indicating in the direction of his grandparents’ house. I moved there last year when Mum and Dad died in a car accident.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“That’s alright,” Jude said with a glum expression on his face.
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
The boy took one step towards Jude and placed his hand on Jude’s shoulder.
“It’s okay to cry, you know. I do it all the time.”
Jude arched his eyebrows.
“My dad says it’s good to have a good cry once in a while. He says it washes away the pain and opens up your heart to let love come in,” the boy explained.
Jude smiled as tears rolled down his cheeks. The boy smiled back at him with a warm look in his eyes.
“You’ll be okay,” he said.
“Well, I have to go now,” the boy said, and in the wink of an eye he disappeared into the bush, leaving Jude behind with the lizard that still squatted motionless on the rock.
Around one o’ clock, when Jude came home, he found Nana in the kitchen preparing lunch.
“Hi Jude,” his grandmother said and gave him a peck on the cheek.
“Hi Nana,” Jude said and went to sit at the kitchen table.
“Nana, I met a boy in the bush up by the waterfall.”
Nana looked up.
“Yeah, he told me that he used to take along a field guide just like the one Grandpa gave me.”
“That’s a coincidence. Did he tell you where he lives?”
“No, he didn’t, but I get the feeling he knows his way around the place.”
Nana stopped what she was doing and looked at Jude with a questioning look on her face.
“And do you know what? His name’s Jude too.”
Nana’s heart froze as a shiver went down her spine.
“What’s wrong, Nana?” Jude asked when he saw his grandmother’s face go pale. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
It took Nana a full minute to regain her composure.
“I think you have, Jude. You saw our other son’s ghost.”
Jude pricked up his ears.
“Your daddy had an older brother. His name was Jude and Mum and Dad named you after him in his honour. One day, when he was about your age he went for a swim on his own in the billabong.”
“Do you mean the one that you never let me go to?”
Nana nodded and continued to tell her story.
“When he didn’t come home in the evening for his tea, Grandpa went up to look for him. Jude must have knocked his head against a rock or something and drowned, because Grandpa found him floating face down with a bloody wound on the side of his head.”
“Oh, Nana,” Jude said, getting up from his chair and rushing to wrap his arms around his grandmother when she burst into tears.
“You’ll be okay,” Jude said in an attempt to console her. “That’s what Jude said to me as well.”
Nana stopped crying and smiled.
“He also said that crying washes out the pain and opens up your heart to let love come in.”
“He got that from his dad, your grandpa.”
That evening, when Jude lay in his bed and drifted away in his dreams, he heard a voice whispering to him: ‘You’ll be okay’.
One afternoon when Jude was in his early thirties, he paid a visit to his grandmother. Grandpa had passed away some five years ago, and long before that, he and Nana had stopped farming and began enjoying more time together. However, the years and the premature loss of so many loved ones had begun to take their toll on Nana. Now that her husband was gone as well, she wondered what she had left to live for. To make things worse, her health had deteriorated to such an extent that she was barely able to take care of herself. That is why she decided to move to a retirement home.
Jude was helping Nana to pack the last of her belongings.
“We had some great times, Nana,” he said as he and Nana browsed through one of her old photo albums.
“You bet,” Nana replied.
Then, just as Jude was about to put the photo album back into the box, one of the photo’s fell on to Nana’s lap. She picked it up and took a closer look.
“Jude,” Nana whispered wistfully.
“No, I meant my son Jude.”
Now Jude also looked closely at the photo and remembered something he had long forgotten; the day when he met his namesake’s ghost. Then he turned away from the photo and lay his arm around Nana’s shoulder.
“You’ll be okay,” he said softly.
“Well, Nan, I’ll see you in the morning then,” Jude said when he had put Nana to bed in the evening. “Sleep tight.”
“You too, Jude. See you tomorrow.”
Jude then got into his car and headed home. When he left the dirt track from the cattle station and hit the highway, he turned on the radio to hear these lyrics: ‘Remember to let her into your heart, then you will start to make it better’. Instantly it reminded him of the other Jude’s words all those years ago: ‘Crying washes away the pain and opens up your heart to let love come in’. How right you are, Jude said to himself. At the very same moment, he felt his heart twitch, unaware that in her sleep, Nana had left the material world to be reunited with her son. No one would ever know the last words she had whispered with a smile on her face: “Hey Jude ...”
The Beatles – Hey Jude
‘Australia’ by Snarsy on Pixabay
‘Lizard’ by Sandid on Pixabay
‘Sky’ by Sandid on Pixabay
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