This story takes place during the time Laura has her baby boy (A Child with no Name). In this story Charles is dead, he died on the day Laura and he went hunting (The Hunters). This story deals with the grief Laura has felt throughout those 7 years.
"The Seventh Death Anniversary"
The smell of coffee woke Almanzo up that morning. He walked over to the kitchen and stared at her nineteen year old wife sitting down on the table preparing a small lunch for her to take. He knew that today Laura would go to visit her Pa’s grave and then spend some time by herself for a little while.
It had been seven years since the death of Charles Ingalls. Laura was twelve at the time when it happened. She had begged her Pa to take her hunting with him. They spent a night there in the woods and the next morning he and Laura were cleaning things up from the night before. Laura was folding a blanket and accidentally knocked the gun over which was loaded and ended up shooting Charles. Laura and an old blind man they had met in the woods tried so hard to get help, when they finally found Mr. Edwards they all went looking for Charles. They had found him by a river but they were too late. Laura was inconsolable and kept saying it was her fault. Mr. Edwards was such a strong support for the family during that time. Every year after that, Laura would disappear on the anniversary of his death. People in town were careful to visit the grave that day because they knew Laura or her family would be there and would need space.
Almanzo walked up to Laura and kissed the top of her head. He sat down and grabbed Laura’s hand and looked at her. “Hello…”, he said as he smiled.
Laura cleared her throat. “Hello…”
Almanzo stroked her cheek. “What time will you be home?”
“Sometime in the afternoon, before dark. I made breakfast for you, Jenny and Rose. I already fed the baby. Thank you so much Manly … for understanding this”.
Laura got up and started gathering her things and headed out the door. Almanzo looked outside and saw that it was a little windy and dark. He grabbed Laura in a hug and kissed her. “Please be careful. It looks like it might rain later on”.
“I’ll be fine”. Laura went on her way. Almanzo picked up the baby and watched Laura until she was out of sight.
Laura stood at the entrance of the graveyard and took a deep breath, fighting the urge to start crying. She had walked around for a while gathering some flowers before she arrived at the cemetery. She walked towards the grave and looked down. She looked around her. Even though it was nearly noon, the day was dark & cloudy. She heard the leaves rustling in the wind and she kept moving strands of her loose hair away from her face.
She knelt down and started cleaning the grave a little, took out the old flowers and placed the new ones on it. She ran her hand through the letters which read: ‘Here lies Charles Ingalls – Beloved Husband, Loving Father and Faithful Friend’.
“I miss you Papa”, she said.
Sitting alone beside her father’s grave, grief overwhelmed her and she wept uncontrollably. She tried to speak, but there was a lump in her throat and she continued crying. She kept wiping the tears away but they kept flowing and her body shook as she sobbed bitterly.
“Pa… I … am so… sorry…” Laura covered her face with her hands.
Even though Mr. Edwards had told her a million times that his death was not her fault, Laura could not help and feel a tremendous guilt. It was not easy to explain over and over to friends how he had died. She wished she could erase that dreadful memory from her brain but it was something that would stay with her forever. Her Pa would tell Laura several times that the accident was not her fault. As she remembered those words more tears started to flow.
“Pa, I miss you so much. We all miss you very much. You really made a lot of people sad with … with your death. It is hard to believe that you are gone. Sometimes Ma would forget that you were gone and called out your name”. Laura wiped a tear away.
“Part of us died with you that day but we just go on living, trying the best we can. We know you would want it that way. Even though it has been seven years, it still feels like yesterday sometimes. When someone like you dies Pa, it’s hard for people to stay the same. Mr. Edwards even stopped making his moonshine”. Laura gave a weak laugh which only brought on more tears.
“Um…I got pregnant again. I had a baby boy. I wish you could see him, he is so beautiful. Almanzo and I haven’t named him yet but I think I want to name him Charles. I brought his little shirt to put in your box.”
Laura had a small metal box where she placed things that were important to her. She kept the box buried next to the grave. Every year since she was 12, she would place something in it that meant a lot to her and that she would want to share with her Pa. Laura took out the box and placed the baby’s small shirt in it. She closed it again and buried it and smoothed the dirt and put some leaves on top. Nobody knew of that box except her.
“I love you Pa. I will always love you…I can never forget you”. Laura let the tears fall. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around.
“Oh Ma!” Laura stood up and embraced her Ma. Caroline looked at Laura’s eyes which were red. She wiped the tears off.
“No more crying darling”, said Caroline.
She tried her best to be strong for her daughter. She knew the guilt Laura felt on this day specially and always tried hard to make Laura feel better. She knew the special bond that existed between Laura and her father and it was a bond that has kept going strong even after his death.
Laura and Caroline stood next to each other holding hands looking down at the grave. The wind was picking up a little. Caroline looked at her daughter and squeezed her hand. Laura smiled back.
“Let’s never forget how your Pa wanted us to remember him dear. Remember what he would say?” Caroline looked at Laura as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
Laura wiped away her own tears and took a deep breath. “Yes… I do… I do remember. He said: ‘If something ever happens to me, I want you to remember me with smiles and laughter, because that is how he would remember us all’”.
“Yes”, Caroline whispered as she touched the ring on her finger.
Laura looked at her Ma and smiled. “Thank you”.
"Your Pa would want us to smile and not be so sad", said Caroline as she smiled at Laura. "For Charles".
Laura smiled back and squeezed her Ma's hand. "For Pa..."