By San Antonio Rose
For all who have ever lost a loved one, and with special condolences for the Monkeeland family
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” – Gandalf, The Return of the King
Rose Gamgee, having successfully convinced her six-month-old daughter Elanor to go to sleep, had suddenly realized that she hadn’t seen her husband for much of the evening. She was a little concerned; he’d been awfully quiet since returning home two nights before – without their beloved Mister Frodo. He was cheerful enough when dealing with Elanor, and she knew from the way he smiled at her that he wasn’t upset with her. Still, he was plainly unhappy, and she wanted to do what she could to help.
So she set out to search Bag End and find Sam.
Rose knew what had happened, of course, to some extent. Shortly before they’d left, Frodo had taken her aside and asked her to take care of Sam.
“Well… aye, of course I will,” she had replied, bewildered. “But won’t you be comin’ back with him, Mr. Frodo?”
Frodo had sighed heavily and smiled sadly at her. “I’m going to live with Bilbo and the Elves, Rosie,” he answered. “And I shan’t be coming back to the Shire.”
Rose was stunned. She and Sam both knew that Frodo still struggled with his wounds and his memories, and the way his fellow hobbits treated him was disgraceful, but to leave the Shire and his friends forever….
Suddenly she had grasped what he wasn’t telling her. “You’re leaving, aren’t you? Goin’ West to the Sea with the Elves?”
Frodo had nodded somberly. “It’s a special grace the Powers have given me because I was a Ring-bearer. They’ve given Sam the same option, but not yet. He is still whole; I am not. He has the Shire and his gardens and you and precious Elanor. But I have lost all that ties me to the Shire save friendship, and that is not diminished by distance.”
Rose hadn’t known how to respond to that beyond bursting into tears. Frodo had embraced her gently as she wept, shedding a few tears of his own.
“Dear Rosie… I’m ever so glad Sam has you,” Frodo had whispered as Rose’s tears subsided into sniffles. “You will look after him for me, won’t you?”
Rose had nodded, wiping her eyes. “And you look after yourself, Mr. Frodo, and Mr. Bilbo, too. Wouldn’t do to have Sam comin’ across the Sea to visit and find you all at sixes and sevens, would it?”
Frodo had laughed. “No, indeed!”
Frodo had insisted that Sam not be told what was happening, and Rose had agreed. She knew Frodo had dreaded telling his best friend farewell, both because of the inevitable pain it would cause him and because he knew Sam would want to follow him too soon. Rose suspected that same heartache was the reason Sam had been so withdrawn since his return. But she wanted to know where her husband was and to let him know that she was there to listen when he was finally ready to talk about it.
Coming to a point where two halls met, Rose had to pull herself out of her own memories and try to guess where Sam might have gone. On a hunch, she made her way toward Frodo’s room. Her hunch was correct; the door was open slightly, and she could hear Sam softly singing:
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end,
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I’d see you again.
Rose quietly pushed the door open to see Sam sitting in a chair beside Frodo’s bed, a melancholy, far-away look in his eyes. He blinked and looked up at her.
“Just checkin’ on you, Sam, dear,” Rose said kindly.
Sam managed a wan smile that still conveyed his gratitude.
“Would you like to talk about it?”
Sam shook his head slightly and lowered his eyes. “So many things I’m thinking of, Rosie, my love, I don’t know where to start. Three years ago, I was afraid we’d lost him for sure, savin’ for Strider’s help, and even so I wasn’t sure we’d make it to Rivendell in time. And we almost didn’t… Gandalf said it was a narrow thing, a matter of a few hours. And now he’s really gone….”
“But not lost,” Rose replied gently.
Sam shook his head again. “No, not lost, thank Eru. Still, knowin’ that it’ll be a long, long time before I see him again….” He stopped, unable to continue.
Rose sat down on the bed and took his hand. “I miss him, too. But I knew him only as a friend. You went through the fires of Mordor with him… I can’t imagine how close you were. And it hurts worst to lose those you love best.”
“Worse than anything I can think of… save maybe losing you or the Gaffer,” Sam answered, raising his tear-filled eyes to meet hers again. “As bad as losing Mum. Or Gandalf.” He paused and continued mournfully, “Bother… I’d just gotten used to Gandalf not being dead, and now he’s gone, too….”
Rose wordlessly pulled Sam toward her and let him weep on her shoulder as she had wept on Frodo’s, silently shedding her own tears in remembrance of the dear friend who had left them and in sympathy for her grieving husband.
“Although,” Sam eventually continued when the storm of tears had abated, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief as Rose pulled away somewhat, “this probably wasn’t as hard as Elrond and Arwen having to say goodbye to each other.”
Rose smiled wryly. “No, I suppose not.”
They sat holding hands a while longer, each lost in thought, but both glad to have the other’s loving presence there. At last, Rose looked up and listened for a moment, her mother’s instinct telling her that her daughter needed her.
“I need to go check on Elanor,” she finally said.
Sam nodded, and Rose gave him another hug and a kiss before rising to leave.
“Come find me if you need me,” she added, pausing in the doorway.
Sam nodded again and smiled in gratitude. “Thanks, love.”
Rose smiled gently and left.
Sam sighed heavily, letting his mind run back over the track it had been following for several hours. Memories of happy days with Frodo and memories of times when Frodo was almost lost – especially that fateful night in Cirith Ungol – returned unbidden and unchecked. And Sam wiped ineffectually at fresh tears with his soggy handkerchief.
Frodo. Dear Frodo. They’d always been close, ever since Sam-lad had been introduced to the quiet stranger from Buckland who’d come to live with Mr. Bilbo. But that awful journey into Mordor had made them more than just master and servant, more than friends. Frodo had become as dear to Sam as his own brothers, if not dearer. It pained him that so few people back in the Shire understood how wonderful Frodo was or what he had done to save them. But most of all, his heart ached because those horrid wounds and terrible memories had sent Frodo over the Sea… and he couldn’t follow.
Frodo had said that he, Sam, was meant to stay in the Shire and enjoy its pleasures and its bounty for many years to come. That was some comfort. So was the assurance that he, too, could go West one day. And of course, the fact that Rosie could understand and wanted to help meant more to Sam than he could ever say. Still, the dull ache of loss had settled in Sam’s chest, reminding him of past grief and making him wonder if anything could ever be the same again.
Suddenly discovering that he’d been staring at the floor for several minutes and that his legs were trying to cramp from not having been moved in a while, Sam roused himself, stood, stretched, and looked around the room. He let his gaze linger on many things, recalling memories attached to each item. Slowly, a wistful smile spread across his face.
At length, he turned around and noticed the mithril flute on the shelf near the bed. His curiosity piqued, he reached up and took it down to examine. Frodo hadn’t told him much about it, only that he’d seen Erubar briefly the last time they were in Rivendell and that Erubar had left him the flute to prove it wasn’t a dream. Now Sam marveled at his master’s good sense; other people might have made a big fuss over something brought directly from the Timeless Halls – a gift from the One Himself – and maybe even worshiped it, but Frodo had quietly brought it home and kept it in a special, but secluded, place. He had even been able to leave it behind.
Looking at the shelf again, Sam noticed a piece of notepaper that had been lying under the flute. He picked it up and read it.
My dear Sam,
I’m leaving this for you as a reminder, as it was for me, of what we saw that Yule and of how much the One loves us. I shouldn’t share it with too many people, as the Old Hope is still a long way off, and very few would understand. But do show it to your children if you see fit to tell them the story; or if not, bring it with you when you come.
I hope this note finds you well and joyful. It’s been hard to say goodbye, but we’ll meet again soon… though I fear it may seem longer for you than it will for me. Take care, and hug Rose and Elanor for me.
Sam caught the tear before it could drip off his nose onto the paper. Then he set the note on the bed and sat down again, turning the flute over in his hands as he shook his head with a bittersweet smile. The heartache was still there, but his spirits were beginning to lift a little.
Gazing at the flute, Sam let his mind wander back to the dream-that-was-not-quite-a-dream that the Fellowship had shared on their way to Hollin nearly three years earlier. He hadn’t had much time to reflect on it since then, but every time he did, he still felt the awe that had overwhelmed him in the stable. That the One would love Arda enough to send His own Son to heal its many grievous hurts… that Erubar chose to come as a tiny, helpless baby, endure the problems of growing up, and undergo the torment that Frodo described for Sam from his own vision… it boggled the mind. Of course, Sam knew the sacrifices that love would make, especially the love that he and Frodo had for the Shire that drove them to the brink of death; but an eternal love strong enough to sacrifice for the entire world was nothing short of amazing.
And He had smiled at Sam… lowly, foolish Samwise of the Shire….
Sam was still mystified by most of Gandalf’s explanation, but somehow, contemplating the idea that the One cared about him was a great comfort.
As he let his mind wander further, Sam began to slowly pull together a song. The one he had sung to himself earlier was mostly about sorrow and loss; this, though he didn’t quite understand its origins, was more reassuring. And the more he pondered it, the more reassured he felt himself. Determined not to let the idea get away, he stood and, flute in hand, walked purposefully into the study.
The next morning, Rose realized that Sam hadn’t come to bed and began checking every room to make sure he was all right. Eventually she heard light snores coming from the study. With a bemused smile, she entered to find Sam sound asleep at the desk, quill still in hand. She gently prised the quill from her husband’s hand and replaced it in the inkwell, then pulled the manuscript from under his hand. Her smile became more thoughtful as she read.
up the dreams we’ve planted
In the fertile soil of you.
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Mean a chapter in your life is through.
But we’ll keep you close as always,
It won’t even seem you’ve gone,
’Cause our hearts, in big and small ways,
Will keep the love that keeps us strong.
And friends are friends forever
If the One’s the Lord of them,
And a friend will not say never,
’Cause the welcome will not end.
Though it’s hard to let you go,
In All-father’s hands, we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends.
Rose lovingly rubbed Sam’s back before setting the paper back on the desk and quietly leaving the study. She suspected that her husband would feel the loss keenly for some time yet, and she wondered if the Sea-longing had taken root in him as it had in Frodo. But Sam was beginning to heal, and for right now, that was all that mattered.
Sam sighed and placed a single red rose on the three-month-old grave. “I miss you, my love,” he whispered. “Don’t know how soon I’ll be joining you, but I trust you’ve found your folks and Mum and Dad and that it’s more lovely there than even where I’m going. But it’s time; so I’ve turned everything over to one Frodo, and I’m off to find the other.”
Straightening again, he put a hand to his aching, aged back and whispered goodbyes to the departed Cottons and Gamgees. Then he turned, left the quiet cemetery, and mounted his pony.
“Right, Bill,” he said, taking the reins.
The namesake of the Fellowship’s pony nickered and trotted down the road toward the Havens.
Sam did stop for a few days to visit Elanor and Fastred in the Westmarch, but he could not linger for very long. Elanor accompanied her father to the Havens and bid him a tearful farewell, then left him in the capable hands of the Elves.
The voyage was uneventful, except for the moment when the ship left the curving seas of Arda below to follow the Straight Road. But as the ship drew closer to Tol Eresseä, Sam began to feel his heart lighten, his cares fade, and the physical burden of age slip away. And at last, though hardly soon enough for Sam, the ship entered the harbor of Avállonë.
As the gangplank lowered, Sam hurried to the railing to see if he could spy any familiar faces in the crowd. His heart sank slightly when all he could see were tall Elves. But just as he started down the gangplank himself, a familiar voice rang out.
Sam’s mouth fell open and his heart nearly burst with joy as his heart’s brother dashed out from the crowd and ran to embrace him.
“Oh, Sam… it’s been too long,” Frodo sobbed happily.
“Aye, Frodo, it has,” Sam whispered, unable to keep back the tears. “But it doesn’t matter now, does it?”
No, a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends.
A/N: The songs used in this story are “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor and “Friends” by Michael W. Smith (with minor modifications), with a buried reference to “Good Clean Fun” by Mike Nesmith.
This is the third story in the That We Might Pray Without Words series. I had planned to finish “Better Is One Day” before tackling this one, even though I’d had the story outlined in my mind since the previous summer; but when, by chance *cough*, I wandered onto the Monkeeland board (on which I occasionally lurk) and saw the sad news that Stu had passed away, I began wondering if I ought to get this done in his memory. Even though I never knew him, I know several people on the board who did. And then when I saw that Nezscape had posted the lyrics to “Friends” as a tribute… well….
Butch: Well, that tears it!
Monkees: I guess that tears it.
About Sam’s mother: Tolkien never tells us when Bell Gamgee died, but she’s clearly gone by the time of the Quest because the Gaffer is alone in “The Scouring of the Shire.” I tend to view the Gamgees as a particularly close-knit family, and Sam is very tenderhearted, so I imagine that his mother’s death would be a serious blow whenever it happened. I know I can’t bear the thought of losing either of my parents.