She closed her front door and sighed, "What a day!"
Looking at the dishes, trays, wine glasses, cake crumbs and left overs she thought, I'll get to that later. She poured herself the last cup of coffee and cut herself a chunk of cake, licking the remnants off her finger.
Then she turned and walked into her study. Sitting in her favorite chair she turned to gaze into the forest that enveloped her home.
The trees were, surprisingly, still speckled with orange and yellow leaves.
She loved autumn.
How had 65 years passed so quickly, she mused. Sixty five birthdays, each of them marking the passage of time and with each passing year she'd added to her repertoire of life.
The door bell chimed shattering the silence.
"What did they forget? she laughed expecting to find one of her children at the door coming to retrieve a neglected item.
Instead she found her best friend's daughter standing there the leaves swirling around her feet, suitcase in hand.
Annie recognized it, "That's your mother's bag!" she gasped looking at the worn corners, a testament to Amanda's years of travel.
"It is Annie. She asked me to give this to you before she died. Make sure it's on her birthday she told me. So here it is. I don't know what's in it but knowing mom it will be pretty special. You know she really loved you, like no other friend."
And with that she kissed her and turned to walk down the driveway to the waiting car.
Annie's hands trembled as she lifted the suitcase with one hand and wiped the stream of tears with the other.
"This is just like you, to send me something even after you're gone."
Setting the suitcase on her desk she studied it. She knew this was Amanda's favorite one. It went everywhere with her.
She pulled the zipper open and gasped when she saw the hundreds of photos that filled the inside. Looking up at her were photos of Amanda in Mexico, Italy, Spain, birthdays, communions, weddings. Amanda's life lay sprawled before her surrounded by her family and friends. Love, laughter and adventure.
Annie's hand finally came to rest on an envelope with her name scrawled across the front in Amanda's chicken scratch handwriting,
I never used this suitcase although I did have one like it. I saved this one for you, hoping that one day you would travel with me on the remarkable journey called life. There were so many missed opportunities and so many years of waiting for you. But, I have no regrets. So instead, since you couldn't be with me I filled this suitcase for you so that you too could one day share the passage of time with me. At each event and on every trip, I carried you with me.
Now spread your wings Annie, fill your suitcase, have no regrets and race to the finish line.
I'll be waiting!
The bell rang again. Annie pulled the front door open, a fresh stream of tears fell from her eyes as they came to rest on her new suitcase.