Bittersweet Memories

There are some events in life that I will never forget.

I remember my PhD exam so clearly, it's as if it happened only yesterday! The nervous excitement of presenting my research to world-leading experts in my field was like nothing I ever felt before.

I remember the moment my wife and I started dating. We were walking home in the dark after class one day, both of us awkwardly mumbling about whatever we could to keep the conversation going. At some stage, we couldn't think of anything left to talk about and wound up holding hands, silently walking in the dark. Somehow, that moment feels so much deeper than even our wedding day.

I remember almost every minute with my beautiful daughter -- the moment she was born, the time she spent hours looking for a four-leaf clover because she thought I was sad, her graduation ceremony...

These are all memories I cherish more than anything else, but there are some events in life I wish I could forget. Today is the anniversary of such an occasion. I ended up taking the day off work and wandering aimlessly around town, haunted by bittersweet memories.

Somehow or another, I found myself in front of a graveyard, studying the tombstones while tapping the fence surrounding them. At that moment, I felt a small drop of rain on my hand. I looked up at the somewhat menacing clouds and cursed at myself for ignoring the forecast this morning. I guess I deserved it.

I rushed to the small steeple nearby for some shelter, thinking it might also be a quiet place to clear my mind. Even with the lights off, the room was illuminated by a colorful mosaic from the stained-glass window, which highlighted a fresh red carpet and several wooden pews. At front pew, there was an older man, clad entirely in black, except for a white bar hidden in his collar. When I entered, he turned around, nodded, and then resumed his prayer.

I slowly made my way to the pew behind him before sitting down and idly staring at the cross hanging from the far wall. The rain soon began to pick up, surrounding both of us in a sea of white noise. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, trying to clear my mind, but couldn't concentrate with the drops falling onto my hands.

The priest did not look up from his prayer, but said, "I guess I should have expected to see you today."

I wiped the tears from my eyes before responding, "Old habits are hard to break, I guess."

He pointed to the corner of the room, "I figured it might rain today and prepared an umbrella for you."


I ran my hands through my hair before making my way out of the church to walk around the yard. As I left, the priest said, "Be sure to come back here when you are done. A package was dropped off earlier today by some men in fancy suits."

A package? Here? I sighed again and said, "Well, I need to return the umbrella anyhow."

The rain was intense. I could hardly think over the barrage of water on top of the umbrella, but it was probably better that way. My body instinctively knew what to do and began walking a familiar route through the grounds.

I stopped before three gravestones for a father, mother, and child, all inscribed with the date, 2.22.2002. They had died in a fatal accident a few decades ago. Well, that is not exactly true. The tombstone on the right was actually empty, waiting for the father to eventually meet his end as well, but he had asked for his stone to be made at the same time as his family. After all, even if his body was alive, he died that day as well.

I don't know how long I stood there examining the graves, but by the time I recognized where I was again, the rain had stopped. I was completely soaked through from head to toe and started walking again, listening to the awkward squishing sounds from my shoes as I made my way back to return the umbrella.

When I opened the door, the lights were on again. The priest eyed me before saying, "I guess this year was pretty rough."

"Yeah. I didn't expect the rain."

"It's ok. Wait here a moment..." He hustled off towards his office and returned with a bright pink towel. "Use this to dry off. After that, please sit down."

I found myself chuckling slightly at the towel and shook out the umbrella before doing as he said. He then placed a laptop in my lap and said, "Earlier today, a few men stopped by and dropped this off. It's a flash drive with a video on it. I was told it was confidential, but also that you should watch it before leaving the church."

I was still confused, but said, "Ok. I'll watch it."

He then started walking away, "I will give you privacy. Let me know when you are done."

When I put the drive in the computer, a file appeared on the desktop labelled, "2.25.2002." I grimaced slightly, but clicked on it anyway. When it opened, I saw someone I truly did not expect: me from a few decades ago.

I saw myself fumbling around with the camera before nodding to myself. My eyes were swollen and red. I clearly had not slept since the accident. The recorded version of me took a deep breath before saying a few words that echoed throughout the sanctuary:

This is not your fault.

Prompt: You receive a sealed package with a letter from a law firm explaining that their services were hired several decades ago to deliver this package to you, at this address, on this day. Inside the package is a flash drive with a recorded video message to you, from yourself.

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