I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.

Through the Ashes of Isaac

Sometimes I still sense the agitation of the body. The silent roar in the ears.

I’m not done yet!

The angry buzz of blood in the jaw.

That’s not fair!

Ash and bones, but I remember. I remember because I see you flail against the grief and disease.

It’s not fair! You pump a fist at the stars, you shake the urn.

I remember the pain of life, but, ashes now, I mostly remember the good.

Oh, to press it against you, dear Bridgette, through your flesh, squeeze the awareness till it wakes in your heart.

There is more good.

In the ash are remnants of a body that pressed against yours. Our love is good. Sweet love that unfolded…

Look at her tiny toes!

and upended our lives…

What shall we call her?

altered schedules, new lessons, new challenges…

Why is she always crying?

Chaos, but there was always good. Light at the end of the day. Love in the life unfolding.

When you struggle to remember the good, dear Getty, look to her, the best of both of us. Irrepressibly curious. Creative genius. True. And stubborn. (That’s on me.)

Remember the good.

Look to Antonia to remember good.

Beware when she offers a stubborn chin and defiant eyes. They mask a tender heart. Like yours. Her heart is good. Like yours. Grab her hand, hold the good in the chaos and grief of these days. Always hold to the good.

She’ll be okay. As surely as the dust of my bones waits on the kitchen counter to be scattered, Antonia will emerge from the warm soil of our tragedy, unfold like a flower, thrive in the goodness of our love.

You don’t understand?

I know it’s hard. You replay the night in your head. If only… and Why didn’t I… The trajectory, less than a centimeter from fatal.

If only I had twitched a little to the left, maybe the bullet wouldn’t have…

But I didn’t, and it did, and even had it not, you wouldn’t understand still.

In the end, the need to understand dissipates, burns away from the flesh and bone like water.

If only I could show you…

… wrap you up in this peace.

I look back and forward, in…

Can you see inside? The peace is tucked there in your heart, it’s yours to hold in this darkness, bright light, warm comfort.

I whisper reminders, curled up against your sleepless head, peace, serenity, can you hear me?, joy, all the beauty is already yours, my love, the very best part of what I ever called mine.


That we live a life unaware, that’s what’s unfair.

So I keep trying, I press, peace, serenity, joy, hoping your flesh senses it, to calm the agitation, quiet the anger. Surely the body I cherished and loved senses my ashen spirit.

Let the good.

The good will draw you forward.

Be patient with Antonia. She’s not as tough as she seems. Don’t scold her anger. It’s the most honest and raw part of her now. She’ll move through it, to the other side. She’ll remember good.

Will her anger consume her?

Not if you let her taste it, chew it. When she bites down on good, she’ll spit out the anger, bitter seed. And she’ll hear the peace I whisper.

Show her serenity through quiet acts of recovery. Model beauty harvested from havoc. Rub affection into her wounds.

Don’t despair if she resists.

Spread love on the table, day after day, no matter what, until she pulls up her chair.

She’s good like you. Stubborn like me, but soon she will feast at the table of love.

Don’t be afraid.

I can’t fix all the things that are breaking and broken around you.

But I’ll press peace into your heart day after day, no matter what, cover your trembling bones with serenity, sing lullabies of love and laughter until the laughter returns, until the joy lights your eyes.


The peace will ease the impossible burden of spiking numbers and long shifts, hold fast to the good to dodge disease and politic. I don’t know how I know but I know, you’ll be fine.

Antonia too. Brilliant on you for sending her to stay with your friend until the worst of this passes. They need each other. Two tough packages, roots bound by fear and anger. They’ll crack the tangle and find new in life.

It’s okay to cry. Don’t fight it. Let the tears cleanse the ashes of a life lost. Pump your fist at the stars till your arms give out. Rattle my ashes and bones against the urn. I can take it, love. I’m with you always, even as you detangle the grief from love, the joy from loss, fumbling to find the good in the darkness.

And when you find it, hold fast to the good, always.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021