A Long Goodbye

To Shadow for telling me this was worth pursuing, to Marea for her audacious reading of my ideas ( you are a true stimulation of the mind) and to Pip for making me conscious of what a true writer is, for her priceless advice and her encouragement.


Maybe I should be writing this down. Bilbo used to urge me to write down my thoughts in a diary but I used to spend my time in idle roaming through real and fantastic paths ...I was content with reading his stories and listening to his mesmerizing voice while he was telling me for the 100th time the story of Smaug the fell Dragon. I remember well how strong I was feeling at that time of my life...I was young, time was endless, the Shire was limitless , the world was ...I was to conquer it all, I would depart for an adventure even grander than Bilbo's. I would meet unknown people still hidden in the uncharted corners of my map...Bilbo's map...my dear Bilbo's map...my dear Bilbo...

I will never forget his face the day he came to fetch me to Bag End. All things were settled between him and my lawful guardian, uncle Saradoc, and I was to leave that same afternoon. I packed my things in a small bundle and I was waiting for his cart to arrive....my heart was beating in uneven beats...this new life that was about to begin was a huge adventure on its own...I longed for and dreaded it at the same time...It is funny how one feels sure over his resolutions and when the time comes to put them to reality they seem as if they belong to someone else...I consented to move in with Bilbo, he promised a "stable and caring environment" for me to uncle Saradoc...he promised me we would have a "great time"...he did not have to promise me anything...I adored him as it was! Ever since I could remember myself I could remember my visits to Uncle Bilbo's. His hobbit hole was the cave of Smaug for me, filled with mythical treasures...my eyes could not get enough of the fascinating things he had around, tokens of his journeys in the Wild World, live testimonies of a real world beyond any imagination, of people and realities I was dying to know about...Oh! I will never forget the look in his eyes...he was so happy I could see tears welling up. He was very restrained and hobbitish about it of course but this sweet look made me feel at home even before the cart had started from Bucklebury...warmth filled me and I found myself feeling happy, yes happy after a long time...

I used to be a happy child, or so they tell me. My mother used to say that she would have had ten children if they were to be like me. I was never told why she did not have any more children after me. These things are not to be discussed and I would not know who and how to ask. She loved children and she ...she loved me...oh mother...sweet mom...I remember my heart stopping...I thought I would never breathe again...I did not want to breathe again...why would I? I felt no thoughts were worth thinking, no moves were worth making...I wanted to stand still and stop....being...mom, sweet mom...gone forever! I was closing my eyes and I was trying to picture her in my mind...I used to think that if I did it enough she would become real in my dreams and then I could go on living in there with her...I wanted to smell her fresh breath on me, her sweet smell when I was putting my face in her arms...I would come into a room and try to catch her essence still there...Oh! mom, sweet mom...after a while your face faded in my dreams...I remember waking up in the night crying for your lost face...I had your smell, though and your shining eyes to watch over me...yes, your eyes I could always feel upon me...

I guess that is when I stopped being a happy child. I was not trying to be difficult or anything. I was just feeling more at ease when alone. Growing up in Buckland, I had a fair number of friends and I used to do all the things a young hobbit is supposed to do...but the truth is I was finding solitude more and more a pleasant alternative. Too many things were filling my head and at times I was overflowing with feelings and ideas and dreams that were becoming alive in front of my eyes...my lonely hours were a secret life...I could be me there...I did not have to put on a face and pretend anything...I did not have to be happy or strong. I could be me...Even later when I moved in with Bilbo, I used to take a book with me and a small bag with food for a day and something to keep me warm for the night and I used to go a short distance from Bag End and pretend I was alone in the Wilderness. I would light a fire and prepare something to eat and make a cup of tea and sit watching the stars and naming them as Bilbo had taught me...and I would sing a song and let my heart get soaked with the beauty and the stillness of the night and I would feel free...I would come back from my "adventure" longing for the voices of my friends, for the softness of my bed and the company of Bilbo and I would make a date with myself for the next time.

I was balancing myself like a dancer on a rope. I was putting sadness on one side and happiness on the other and I would not let myself be taken in by one or the other. Sadness was too real to ignore. It had a permanent residence in me and I could not shrug it off even if I wanted to which, I must confess, I did not. I longed for it at times. I had to let it get hold of me and sharpen my senses and make my understanding of the world become greater. What a strange thought! I did not know then why this should be so. Why my sadness and sorrow would enhance my feeling of reality...I was young and my `knowledge' was coming straight from the heart. It so happened that life would teach me some more lessons and then I would `know". I would know the sadness that makes one's heart melt and blend with the threads of life and that makes one's soul a soft bed for anyone in need to rest. I would never think I was capable of such feelings.

I loved my parents, I loved Bilbo, I loved a few dear friends...But I never thought of loving all the people around me...I just never thought of it. I had my complaints and now that I come to think of it, I was quite judgmental towards others. I was forming a quite clear way of seeing things. I knew my likes and my dislikes. I was never harsh with others but I was not willing to part from my views easily too. As years passed I came upon a secret, an "inner" agreement with the world around me: I was not the one to change the Shire. It was there before me and it would continue working just as well after I would be gone and forgotten. So why take the pain to change people? They lived their lives and I lived mine, they had their views, I had mine...an agreeable disagreement ...I would smile in condescending understanding, they would smile at my weirdness...I had my moments of course. Sometimes their pettiness and complete lack of interest in the bigger picture made me feel I was living amongst voluntary blinds, who would ignore by choice even the end of the world! I would scream inside then but ...I would soon let it be...hopeless...I was becoming comfortably numb...But then of course life would teach me otherwise ...and I would come to understand where true values are hidden like precious gems into the most simple things and the most simple souls...
..............

There are moments in life when you know deep inside that from that point on there is no return. You fool yourself and pretend that next day, when the sun will rise again, it will be life as usual but...yes, deep down you know the truth...there are moments that just thrust in your hands a future you don't always look for. Bilbo's party was one of these rare moments in my life...I could feel it then as a whisper in my innermost soul ...I know it now all too well.

I remember that last summer quite clearly...Bilbo had not confided his plans yet to me but somehow I could feel things were coming close to a stand still, to one of these moments...when things can fall towards any direction. I could see it in his eyes, in the way he would look at me, in the way he would look at the things around him. He would stand in front of a flower in his beloved garden and just stare and lose himself in there and after a while he would come back with a sigh and a new light in his eyes as if this had been a step forward, a step towards a decision...It was a quiet afternoon when he told me. We were sitting in a shadowed corner of the garden...the summer heat was palpable in front of my eyes, making the garden a river of colours and even the song of the birds and the cicadas was silenced. I was leaning back towards the cool wall of the house, a pipe in one hand, a glass of lemonade in the other, my eyes half closed, when he spoke with a small voice telling me he was going to leave forever. I told him I would go with him but as the words were leaving my mouth I knew this was not to be so. This was not an invitation to our long expected adventure. It was a goodbye. And something in me told me that I had to respect this decision and that I had to make it as smooth and as sweet for him as I could. I owed him as much. My dearest Bilbo!!! I danced at your party, I laughed and drank and cheered and kept my pain inside. I cherished these last moments we had together and I promised you would always be alive in my heart and you always are...my friend... my father... my guardian... my light in the years of need...and you were gone...forever...
...........

The years flowed like a river, softly... 17 years! Sometimes I can't believe it but, yes, they were seventeen years ...they ran through my fingers leaving sweet memories of a pleasant life and, now I can tell, of a blessed sharing of precious moments with my dear friends. I watched Merry and Pippin growing up: Merry a boy always older than his age, hasty to become a man, a trustworthy friend, my blood brother. How many secrets we have shared the two of us!!! Pippin a boy full of life, he often reminded me of a young pony; no harness could tame his playful soul... such a clear soul ...And of course there was Sam. Bilbo left him to me together with Bag End. Sam...he was always there...a faithful servant, an eager pupil, a steady companion. Sam... he would always be there... The days of the Shire were gold and honey, they were quiet and peaceful. They flowed like a tame river, softly...

But then all these were gone...just vanished like a dream in the morning...I can still remember Gandalf's face. He was sitting by the fire and the hollows of his eyes seemed filled with the shadows of doom. I was sitting there and I just did not believe what I was hearing. I can hear his voice even now, his muffled urgency, the passive way he was using to spell the end of the world to me...the end of MY world...I wanted to hate him, to hate...to hate something...I wanted this to be a nightmare...but it turned out that nightmares were not enough to encompass the horror that was being laid in front of me...I was feeling everything going to pieces. My life suddenly seemed like a glass broken...I could sense an end coming up...I did not know why...I mean Gandalf did not paint any bright colors but he was presumably just wanting me to get out of the Shire...He was not asking for more...or was he? What was it? A premonition? Gandalf's voice that finally drifted to a stop? I swear ... while I was looking into the flames of my hearth, I could see the fires of Mordor burning...I did not know it then but now I do ...I know...I have been there...

I have been there...I sometimes have to repeat it to myself...I have been to Mordor...I climbed Mount Doom...I should stop now...I better stop thinking about it. I must pull my thoughts elsewhere...Oh my God...oh my soul...I will never, never forget...I was dying for so long...I was dying every step of the way. After some time I could not believe I was alive. I was waking up after a deep sleep asking myself "Is this not ended yet? Why can't I stop breathing? Why is there no one to make me stop?" There were moments after some time, when sleep and reality were one...a fiery hell, a deafening throb in my ears... a darkness... a blinding light... a burden... pain... fear ...fear...What kept me going? I keep asking myself...what was it that kept me going?

I guess I was thirsty and hungry and tired...In the beginning I knew it myself...I was feeling. I could smell the horrible stench of the Marshes and I could feel the earth trembling in front of the Gates of Mordor. In the beginning I could think...I remember well ...I was thinking about my fear, I was finding words to describe my pain, I was describing the noises and colors and images that were coming unbidden in my head. Words were always like a magic medicine to me...I would use them to delineate my anxieties and to demystify my demons...I was using them during the quest too...There would be nothing I would not `talk' about. I was talking in my head loud and clear. I was repeating my name. My name was telling me who I was when I was losing myself in the darkness. I was gaining control over Its increasing power. I was not speaking Its name ...I don't know if anyone noticed but I did not...ever say Its name out loud...A name has a strength of its own...

Gandalf's words were coming in my mind. But I did not want to believe him. This beautiful little thing could not be so strong. My mind was yelling at me to listen to Gandalf's words ...my heart was loving it. So fine, so beautiful...I could harness it... I would just keep it hidden and protect the world from it.

The Ring...I can say it now...The Ring...Who could ever imagine? I had it for so many years .I always carried it in my pocket. Never used it though. Never felt it...I am sure...I strived for long afterwards to find a special moment in the past, something that would have made me sense it was more than what I thought it was during the long years I had lived with it. All I could find in my heart during such moments was a feeling of admiration and property: a mysterious and innocently enchanted object it seemed. The Ring was beautiful to my eyes, I could not shrug that off ...whatever Gandalf had said and despite the fact that I knew it was dangerous, I could not overcome my true appreciation of it. And it was mine, yes mine... of that there was no doubt....

And then I started feeling it. I could feel it lying on my chest ...and then there was a soft murmur deep down in my mind. It was there for long before I realized it. It was so much like my own voice! I thought I was going mad... as if I was talking to myself but not like a monologue...like talking to another self that was me and yet not. This voice was comforting. It was like a caress, a whisper in my ear; it was just wanting to tell me things I needed to hear. I could not resist it. I could feel it ...and I have not stopped feeling it since...
............

Weathertop... Cirith Ungol... Mount Doom...I say these words and my mouth tastes bitter, my heart feels darkness, my soul feels despair. But I will not turn my face from them any more. I will not close my eyes. I now know they are not going to go away...ever. Weathertop is in me. It carved a piece of my soul and made a cozy little nest in there. And when I feel comfortable, when I let go, when I see the smile in Elanor's eyes and my heart melts in a golden light then...yes, it is then it chooses to come...it wakes up...the pain swells, it surges through my mouth ...I can feel it suffocating me and I gasp for air....one breath, one breath more! Oh please!...I am dying...but then not yet...it will not kill me...not yet...it will keep me there to take me again and again and again...How many times do I have to live death to be redeemed? Will I ever be redeemed? Why do I ask for redemption? Have I not done what I could? Why do I feel I have to do this? Why do I feel my torture is my punishment? Could I have done more?

..............


I feel so tired...I wish I could just stop thinking...My thoughts take me to paths I don't want to tread again...and they are as real as ever in my mind...I wish I could just lie down and close my eyes and be in my old dreams again! I used to dream such beautiful dreams! They used to mingle with my waking life and I would be in a constant touch with another world, a world where everything was possible. I was plotting my life in my dreams, I was touching my wishes, I was overcoming my obstacles and I was happy...Now there are no dreams left for me. I lay my eyes upon the world around me and caress the beauties of my Shire for the last time. I walk through my paths and rest in my woods. I watch my stars and listen to my brook flowing endlessly towards the Sea. My Shire is here and so beautiful! My heart aches from its beauty! My Shire! But I am not here any more. I talk and my voice sounds echoing in an empty shell. I am not here any more. I am an empty vessel of a hobbit that once was. I have to say goodbye and go...I hear the whisper of the sea in my soul. I recognize the murmur that used to lull me to sleep even when I was a young boy. I was feeling this sweet longing in my heart as a taste, a smell, a touch well-known once but shrouded in a mist from memory. I now know it was not the past but the future that was soothing me to sleep. It was a gift to be laid in my hands when all else was gone...I am blessed...

Tomorrow I will take my last journey through the Shire! Sam will be by my side for the last time. I have not told him where we are going. I am not sure I did well, though I could not bring my heart to tell him sooner. Somehow, I know he knows deep down and he understands...He has never told me...but then I don't need to say much with Sam these days. There is an understanding and silence is part of it. We sit on the bench and look over the party field and the green hills and the soft smoke that comes from the hobbit holes down the valley and we just don't need to talk. I feel that all we had to say we have said and all we had to do we have done and now our souls know each other so well we can just be together. I never ever thought I could feel this way for another human being, but this dreadful quest has given me an unexpected gift, a gift so precious I will be grateful for it all my life. It has given me Sam. I sometimes try to tell myself what this boy has done for me and my mind gets overwhelmed. I sometimes look at him going through his daily routines, being a sweet husband, an enchanted father, a devoted gardener who will tend all things with utmost love and I say to myself...how on earth was I blessed with such a soul to look after me? What did I do to deserve such a precious love and devotion?

There were days during the quest when I was not looking at him at all. My eyes were fixed inside, into that terrible force that was hitting me in huge waves, barely leaving me to breathe in between. I could not see Sam. I could not hear him. But...yes...I could feel him ...I could feel him near me all the time. It was a mysterious feeling- like an unexpected fresh breath in a scorching summer day...like the promise of spring in a late March snow storm. I can not really express it in words. Sam's presence was the thin line that kept me in touch with this world. I was feeling I was losing myself in a well made of darkness and fire, of deafening sounds and total emptiness and ...like a miracle I had this thin soft elvish line that was keeping me from sinking in there for ever...How can I explain this to him ever? He knows I am grateful for all his pains, for all his love, for all his devotion, and for keeping me alive when I would be dead ...But how can I explain to him that during those last terrible days he was life itself? When all my nightmares were taking the shape of death he was the shape of life in my mind and when all voices were calling me to an end he was the voice that would softly call me to go on. When all my memories where gone...

I am leaving him now. I am going to the other side of this endless sea...there does not seem to be another way...for me or for him...But what we have lived we will always carry within...what we have been we will always be and when our thoughts will cross over the deep misty waves our souls will feel happy again. I will be happy again. I will know his life is rich, his wife loving, his children sweet, his Shire thriving...and my life will feel complete too. I am going to a place of healing but I will never leave the Shire...I will always be here as long as Sam will be here ...he will be my life line once more...


Add New Comment

Latest Forum Posts

Join the Conversation!