It was a full moon that night, a bright and powerful moon that beamed blinding light onto the blankets of snow that covered the hills.
The snow had fallen the previous day, and the temperature dropped into single digits. Everything was frozen solid. On this night, like other nights of the full moon, the lady in the long dark cloak wandered the hills. She was tall and thin, and just before her there was an equally thin black cat, with long legs.
It appeared as if the lady followed the black cat through the hills. When the cat stopped, the lady stopped, too. Her face was hidden by shadow. The black cloak she wore dragged behind her. The wind whistled and howled, the cold, unforgiving wind. But she paid it no mind.
Watching from a far, I had noticed her over the course of many months. In the fall, the lady walked through leaves, crunching twigs and branches in her loneliness. It was the same in spring and summer.
That night was the first full moon of the New Year, and I set out to gather an answer from the lady. Curiosity had gotten the best of me, even though I felt at least slightly afraid as I watched her.
Opening the cabin door, the wind and drifts of snow blew against my face. The lady was at the top of the hill. I could see her silhouette, as well as the cat’s slight frame, near the oak tree.
“Who is it?” she called, as I trod up the hill.
“A questioner. A humble servant.”
She turned her shrouded face toward me.
“My only servants are the dead – not the living.”
“What do you mean?”
Under the hood, a face emerged. It was the delicate face of my long-dead sister, the same freckled cheeks and rosy lips. The face transformed and became the face of my father, then my mother. It was the face of all of those who I had lost, all of those who I had grieved in years past.
I bowed before her.
“Who are you? Why do you roam these hills?”
The shadow returned, and the black cat beside her pawed at the bottom of her cloak.
“I am the Lady of the Full Moon. I am The Lady of Grief. I wander these hills to burden myself with the sorrows that humans cannot bear.”
I shivered. “But I have grieved these losses,” I explained. “They were my family.”
“Truly, you do not understand me. I grieve for all of humanity. I shoulder the weight of bottomless agony. It is right that you bow before me.”
“What do you want from me?”
The lady stood silent for a moment. “An offering. The full moon is a time for renewal, cleansing. Go back to your cabin and bear your sorrows. Feel the blackness in your gut. That is my direction. Then you will know a portion of my burden.”
The lady left me with that remark, turning and gliding down the hill with her black cat, as if they were levitating.
I stayed for a while on my knees, my hands clasped in prayer under the moonlight. The memories of dead relatives came back to me, the aching loss, the loneliness of that cabin in the hills where only I stayed.
That night, tears streamed down my cheeks and I was blind with rage against death. The death of my sister, my father, my mother.
The grief of loneliness, the nights of solitude in the hills. I remembered what the lady said, and I thrashed and fought against the grief, wrestled it to the floor, took an axe to the dining room table, screamed in pain.
I awoke the next day to a shining sun feeling different. The grief had gone, and I felt cleansed.
A month later, on the night of the full moon, I watched for the lady wandering the hills, but she was nowhere to be found.
Nor the month after, or the month after that.
Now, every month on the night of the full moon, I make my own silent offering to my ancestors and the ones who passed too soon.