Chapter 1: Buffalo Girl
The cool wind bristled through the budding trees. Soft sobs from a mourning crowd muffled the birds chorus'- seasonal promises of new beginnings.
Nearly everyone in Bedford falls was there - but that was expected. A Bailey loss, was a community loss. The whole town felt as if they had lost a piece of themselves.
But none felt is as deeply as George Bailey. For the first time in a long time, George, was without an answer.
Always ready to provide help, offer a solution, solve a problem, This time, however, it was different. This was something that couldn't be fixed. It was something that couldn't be changed.
It was something that had to be accepted - regardless of what he thought.
One by one, his neighbours, friends and family gave their condolences, leaving George to his thoughts. Though he tried, he couldn't get his feet to move from their place.
Knowing, as soon as he did, he had to live the rest of his days in his new reality- one without his beloved Mary.
Only once before had he felt such anguish - many years ago on Christmas Eve, gripping the rail of the bridge contemplating his life.
"Mary." George whispered mournfully. What will we do without her?"
Pete Jr's hand clasped George's back. Tears flowing uncontrollably, his children's embraces were the only thing stopping him from collapsing.
Looking at his two beautiful daughters, who resembled Mary so greatly in appearance and mannerism, reminded George of earlier days of life.
Toting kids on their hips, while doing as much as they could in the businesses and community, smiles on their faces all the while.
Hugging his dad again, Pete said, "You know she's in a better place, and no longer in pain."
"I know Pete, I know." Wiping his tears.
Tommy reached into his pocket and handed his dad an envelope. Looking at his father, he noticed a strange concoction of age and youth.
Creased lines and grey hair, a slowing body, but his eyes - holding the love of his youth- they sustained him in time. He hoped to have that look one day.
Looking at the envelope, George's eyes asked the question his words could not.
"You know mom, she always did have the answers." Zuzu shrugged, laughing softly, contemplating the impact and love of the woman they laid to rest.
"We're going to be at the boarding house Pops, when you're ready- I know people want to give you their respects." Tommy said quietly.
"I'll come now.." George began to say,
"When you're ready, Daddy, no one is rushing you. Uncle Marty has taken care of everything." Said Jeanie
"This is a time you should actually think about yourself." Pete said, giving his dad one more hug.
George watched the four of them walking away, grateful they all remained friends in their adult years.
Walking over to a bench he opened the envelope, pulling out tickets- all with George Bailey scrolled across the top. Train tickets, plane tickets and ship tickets, and...
a letter, His eyes filling with tears, he clutched. the letter to his chest.
Inhaling deeply, he looked down at the letter. His fresh tears smearing the ink on the parchment, joining Mary's dried ones, the one last bit of Mary left behind.
My Dearest George,
These last days I was able to remain on this earth, with you, our children and our grandbabies. I am so, so grateful for.
I heard you talking to Zuzu, on one of my bad days, wishing away my pain. Don't you ever doubt that letting me wait until my days were over wasn't worth it.
Rest assured, my darling, that the joy, and the peace during those days was so much greater than any pain. I was collecting all the moments, all of the words all of the silence of my loved ones.
You spent your whole life sacrificing for others. My dreams came true through you, now I want your dreams to come true.
Do you want to know what the best sound in the world is? Anchor chains, plane motors & train whistles.
Go George. Go and see the world that you have waited so patiently to see. Go and see the buildings and the sky scrapers and bridges. Be inspired. Eat your coconut!
Go shoot the works! A whole week in New York. A whole week in Bermuda. The highest hotels - the oldest champagne - the richest caviar - the hottest music. And the prettiest wife...
well she'll be watching you from a far, but, if you listen closely you'll hear her in your heart.
I want you to breath in the air from all around the world. I want you to walk the beaches of the coasts. I want you to go to a place you have never thought of going, and all the ones you did.
Don't leave one rock unturned. Its all in order. I have purchased the tickets to get you on your way.
It's your turn, now George. I only wish you didn't have to wait so long. But know, that in your waiting you have done so much good. You have made the world a better place.
And that sure is something. I am so happy that I was able to spend my life at your side.
I told you that I'd love you until the day I die.
Go now, see the world, live your dreams. Clarence and I will be watching.
Until we meet again,
Your Buffalo Girl
George read Mary's letter over and over.
He very much so wanted to stay in this moment so he didn't have to move on, but there were two more stops he wanted to make before he headed to the reception so,
reluctantly George headed on his way.
Standing over the first grave stone, he smiled, "Well Mr. Gower, You've probably already heard, but I think that old suitcase might actually get used.
I really do think I won a million dollars, it was camouflaged as Mary Hatch. Take care of her for me, will ya."
A few minutes later he came to two more stones. "Ma, Pop." He brought his fist to his mouth, closing his eyes trying to control the tears.
"Thank you. I don't know if I told you enough - what you've given me. Thank you for that old Building and Loan. Thank you for cooping me up in that shabby little office.
It was there that I learned to live. You had a talent, pop, a wisdom, that I could never have learned in college or travelling. Never.
And ma - well you always knew me better than myself- if it weren't for you, I'd never have gone to see Mary that night. And well...she really was someone that had answers, she really was."
Buffalo Girl playing softly in the background, George sat down on the bed.
The old picture of him lassoing the moon in catching his eye, "If only I was still so full of confidence that I thought I could lasso the moon."
"Thank you Mr. Gower." George said, brushing his thumb over his engraved name, clicking his suitcase shut.
Laying Mary to rest was difficult, but first the first time, he realized that laying someone to rest, meant allowing everyone else to say their goodbyes,
so that the ones closest to the deceased could begin the journey to their goodbye.
The horn of a taxi rose from the street.
"Well, I better get going. You'll be coming with me, right Mary?" Brushing his hand over her picture.
George, headed down the stairs, wiggling the top knob on the banister with a smile. The phone started ringing, pausing, an old familiar feeling came over him.
"George let's not stop, let's go." The sound of Mary's youthful, vibrant voice filled his memory, "OK, Mary, we'll go. This time, we'll go.
" with a deep breath he opened the door - the ringing phone disappearing behind him.