The sun was just setting overtop of the hills when Mother told me. I watched its descent with clenched teeth, grudging each purple-gold ray its beauty. Sprawled characteristically on the deep green grass, I knew in my heart that the inevitable was coming. Trying not to hear her stumbling words, I fixed my eyes on the radiant sunset that gave me more joy than her pale, set face. Seeing my beloved mother like this hurt me; and hurt me more than she knew, far-seeing as she was. The light blue sky was darkening to a pale gray, and I thought bitterly that that was all it had been doing lately; growing darker and darker and never brightening at least in my own eyes. I distantly heard Mother sit down next to me.
She said nothing at first. The silence was worse than if she had spoken. I fleetingly wondered how she had found me there on the hill; and for a moment thought wildly and accusingly that her eyes always followed me; watching wherever I went and delving into my deepest, long-kept secrets. Oh, but it was only my grief and the fact that I didn’t know which way to turn at the time that made me feel like this. I wouldn’t have hurt her for the world twice over; and it was no fault of mine that day after day I beheld my mother falling apart.
Falling apart. The words had a terrible and true ring to them; and terrible because of their truth. I tried not to see the truth, but no lie could be devised to explain why day by day my mother grew weaker and weaker. Ever since my father had died she slowly melted away, a shadow of the queen she once was. Her beauty did not diminish, but grew paler and more subtle; and she really did not care how she looked anymore. My mother’s face that used to light up when she smiled like a ray of sunshine had fallen across it had dropped quietly away; and now when she did smile it broke my heart more than her tears would have. Her eyes were still as bright as stars, but the starlight seemed sad and forgotten as if it knew its fiery life was finally at an end. I had tried to make her laugh again; to bring out the sun in her smile and the starlight in her eyes; but she just smiled that heartbroken smile and more often than not turned away; leaving my sincere efforts in vain.
“Daughter.” Mother finally spoke and her words shattered the silence around us like breaking glass. I could almost see it falling to the ground in a thousand crystal pieces; catching the sunlight until they were swept away. “I– I think you know why I am here.” She faltered ever so slightly over her words and reached beseechingly for my arm, but I kept both hands clenched tightly around my knees as if in rebellion. “Dear, I must say goodbye.”
“You don’t have to.” I said bitterly, the words wrenching themselves out of my lips and falling in an ugly way on my ears. “You could stay here with us. Why will you not, mother? Why do you want to leave?” I blinked tears away and watched them fall like crystals onto my hands. The setting sun caught and gleamed from the wet trail on the back of my hand.
I heard her shudder in a little breathing sigh from next to me. “I do not want to leave.” She plucked a flower (a daisy) from the pale green grass. “But since your father has died, and Eldarion can take care of you girls and besides is ready to be king, there is nothing left for me to do here in your father’s land.”
“But you can still be with us.” I talked almost feverishly and imploringly looked at Mother. Her dark hair fell in a sheet across the side of her face. She was slipping away even from my eyes that searched for what she once was in vain. It was the panic that made me speak; that even though I had known this was coming for days the realization that it was there almost killed me. “Aren’t you happy here?” I asked her. “Happy here with your family? Do we mean anything to you?” It was a foolish thing to say. How many times had my mother told me that she loved me more that anything in the world? That love had never failed; moreover it never would fail to the end of time.
She did not answer. My eyes hurt from gazing at the sunset for so long. I broke my gaze with it and looked over at her. “Or maybe you are not happy here.” Her eyes hurt me; the eyes that used to sparkle when she laughed.
Again, it was some time before she spoke. “I loved your father more than anything.” Her voice wavered and she continued more slowly, as if forcing the words out. “But he was a mortal and I became mortal as well when I married him. This is his land. This is his kingdom. I have no place in it now that he is gone.” She began to shred the flower she was clutching, one petal by one petal.
I knew how much she had loved my father. She was the last one to speak to him, after my brother and sisters and I had all said farewell, and not one of us knew what they spoke of behind the closed doors. Often after that she would call `Estel” in her sleep, and by day she called it only silently. Thinking of my father, the proud, noble, but ever so kind man that he was, nearly broke my heart anew. I remember wondering if anyone would ever look at me the way my father used to look at my mother, like nothing else in the world would matter if he only had her presence.
“The people love you.” I resumed; I couldn’t stand to hear her talking like this. “They honor you as queen. What does it matter if you were once immortal? You are mortal now; it was your choice. You have to take the bitter with the joyful.” The tears in my eyes overflowed, and I knew I was tasting the bitter as well. I could see my mother as a queen, a gentle ruling hand beside my father in her glittering crown that always made her look as if she was a silver spire when seen from afar.
“I have never forgotten my people.” There was sorrow in her voice once more, but it was not breaking. It was almost dead of emotion. “My father was very dear to me. He taught me for hours of the history of the elves in Middle Earth and taught me to love it. It nearly killed him when we parted.”
Arwen had never told anyone about the parting between her and Elrond. How he had looked when she turned away for the last time; that ever so slight gesture of the hand that looked as if he were reaching out to keep her close to him, and his eyes. She never forgot his eyes. They were held wide open as if in pain and disbelief; holding hers in their grasp until she broke the gaze and looked away instead. Arwen had never seen her father look like that before, and she never saw him again, joyful or sorrowful. It was then that she almost wavered, just almost; nearly running to him and telling him how sorry she was, to take her back in his arms and home again to Rivendell. But from one side Aragorn called, and from the other her father, and Aragorn’s love was what won her heart.
She often thought of the cruelty of it. Each love, for Aragorn and for her people, was so great that she couldn’t bear to think of breaking it. It’s incredible, the things that love can make you do, the words it can make you say, the feelings it puts inside of you that cannot be brushed aside.
The ships had often called to her from the sparkling Sea. Seeing their pure white banners flying high over the wide-spread decks of deep-lined wood always stirred her heart in a way that nothing in Rivendell ever could. The lapping of the ocean waves on the seashore and the luring cry of the gull were what were always in her mind before she met Aragorn. The Sea could break your neck with its tossing waves or carry you along like a summer’s breeze; whichever it was in the mood for. It was the power of it that she loved, the wild fierceness; unruly in its play. Her heart leaped out and right into the waves when she stood by the Sea. It was the elf in her.
She had not ever erased that presence, but had hid it for a while when she was queen of Gondor. Now that everything that connected her to her mortal side was gone, there was nothing left to do but diminish and return to Lothlórien where she spent her girlhood days with Galadriel.
I broke into mother’s thoughts. “Where will you go?” I somehow pictured her wandering in the lonely wastes of the north.
“Lothlórien.” she replied. “I shall dwell there to the end of my days.” She began to pluck at the stem of the daisy she held. The petals lay strewn on the ground around her, fallen from her fingers.
“The end of your days.” I gasped the words out with clenched teeth. How could my mother ever come to an end? “You are a queen. You should not spend the rest of your days alone and forsaken.”
“Alone, yes.” she repeated. “But not forsaken. You will never forsake me. Nor will your sisters, or Eldarion. The spirit of your father shall always be with me. Alone, yes, but never alone. Alone, but never lonely. Fear not for me.”
I thought of Lothlórien as I listened to her speak. Twilight it seemed to me, full of shadowy corners but no shadows, forgotten whispers even while none were there to whisper through the trees. It was a dream-land, almost unreal in its evening beauty, like the stars peeking out from behind the sun, stars that are not yet bright in the sky. It always made me sad, almost, to think of Lothlórien. It made me think of the elven-voices, singing their sad songs down to the Havens, songs of memory and departure and ages come to an end.
I tried to imagine my mother, wandering there alone amid the fading trees. I could nearly see her; her head held high and her back held straight in a stately walk through the falling leaves. They would swirl around her feet and settle back in their places as she passed. But would I ever settle back in my place when she had passed away from me?
Her long dress would trail along the ground, gently rippled by the wind. It would be a bitter wind as well, for winter was drawing near. Her hair would slowly fly out behind her and sway at her back like a mournful flag in a breeze. And then I thought of her face and the pain that would be reflected in it, the sorrow and the loss, and her wondering crystal-blue eyes taking in the solitude around her. Solitude- there would be no one there to comfort her. It would not be her choice, anyway.
It was then that I somehow knew that there, in Lothlórien, my mother would die. I knew that she knew it as well; but wasn’t able to put it into words for me.
I turned to her in pain. “Mother!”
She took hold of me and I leaned against her shoulder and cried. My body trembled and I knew that she was crying too. I had never seen my mother cry, not even at my father’s death. But she cried for me, and while I was not happy it made me glad to feel her emotion for me. She loved me just as I loved her. Our love had been consecrated with tears, and now could never be broken.
Presently I ceased crying and drew away from my mother. Only then I saw that the hill we were sitting on was covered with daisies like the one my mother had finally shredded apart. They swayed back and forth on their thin green stems and waved their white petals in the wind. Each little golden heart was bared toward my eyes. Not one was like the other; each was different if it was only in the placement of a tiny petal.
My mother was like a flower. Each gave its own small joys to the world, separate and distinct, each with its own song to sing and its own part to play in the whole scheme of the Great hill. You could never find every one, but you were better for having known each. Frail, delicate, but also unlooked for strength you could find in a flower, so that even the strongest winds will not crush some of them, and trampling feet do not find them all. Cloaked every one of them was, in a pure white mantle that did not hide a heart of weightiest gold, a heart that was shown to the world and yet could not be unlocked to its deepest fastnesses without tearing it apart. They hailed the sunrise every morning and yet were happy in their dance as the evening came, and all night gazed up at the twinkling stars with faces full of fierce joy. Their eyes ever looked forward, and never behind, for their lives are too short to second-guess themselves, and when their lives come to an end they leave behind a lasting legacy of beauty so that the world wishes they would return and grace just one more day with their song.
I plucked a daisy and gave it to my mother. “This is for you,” I almost sobbed. “Keep it to remember me.”
“I will carry it until I die.”
“I know you must die.” It hurt me to say it. “I wish it didn’t have to happen like this.” I watched her clutch my flower in her hand. I knew it would travel with her wherever she went from now until her death.
“Such is Iluvatar’s gift to Man, but it is bitter when received. I have no regrets that I have accepted it.” Her face was soft in the sunset. “Do not grieve for me too long or too greatly. Before your days come to pass I will be happy with your father and mine.” She kissed me. I held her eyes in mine for just a moment.
“Namarie.” I cried. “Namarie, mother!”
“Namarie.” She arose, turned away, and walked slowly over the hills. The grass swayed around her feet and the sun sank over the edge of the mountains. It was evening now, both where I was and for my mother’s life. Night would not be long in coming.
I cast myself back on the grass, but did not cry. I had cried enough in waiting, but now I could not find the tears. Slowly, memories of Mother drifted through my mine, and all were sweet with no part for my tears. Her memory would always be with me, and her spirit would always be watching. All I wanted to remember from our parting was my flower in Mother’s hand, reminding her of the daughter that loved her more dearly than any prize in the world.
I lived on from that day, but never forgot. None of us ever forgot, and we were even greater for the memory. For the rest of my life, when I was feeling weary or sad, I would only have to recall my mother’s eyes that wept for me and the even greater love in her heart that caused the tears.
What I never saw was my mother’s dying day, Lothlórien in winter, on the fading hill of Cerin Amroth, when my mother laid herself down to rest and the light in her eyes was quenched. I never heard the words she spoke, just before her lips closed forever, with a small catch in her voice, gazing up at the hanging mallorn-leaves. The wind was bitter, and each dangled and fell in time as she lay there on that immortal grave. Kissing the withered flower that she still clutched, I never heard her say one last time, “I love you, daughter. Namarie.”
Even so, I knew she was always saying it from her heart to mine.