This story is in memory of loved ones and friends who have passed away. Lest we forget.

Stand By You – The Final Lesson

Times change from season to season. Every year brings new challenges and ideas. Yet the past can hold some of the memories that are joyful and painful to bear.

Sonic and Tails, both grieving, sat on wooden chairs in a small war memorial in Central Square. Coloured glass windows illustrated poppies, roses and olive trees inside the memorial. An altar stood in the centre of the memorial with a Celtic Cross. Candles stood on either side of the altar. In front of the Celtic Cross was an open box of sand with burning incense sticks smoking side up.

"Someday I may never see you again," Tails worriedly said. His arm was over Sonic's shoulder. He sighed. He knew his brother wouldn't let him down. Yet he had one thought in mind – death.

"Why are you saying that?" Sonic asked and looked at him, curious.

"Every newspaper I've read has a funerals and deaths section in it. I dreaded that day when one of our friends would die. Now I know - Cosmo! " Tails sobbed.

"I don't want to die! I don't want you to die! I don't anyone I care about to pass away anymore! I don't want to be alone all over again!" he cried as his eyes reddened, "Please Sonic, promise you won't die on me!"

Sonic put one of his arms onto Tails' shoulder and faced him.

"Tails, I can't promise you that I can be alive forever. For every beginning has its end. Remember your time as the Blacksmith when we were in that book… the Knights of the Round Table?" Sonic said.

Tails kept sobbing.

"We saw the plot Merlina had in mind… to have an dark everlasting kingdom under her control. Nobody wanted that – except her," Sonic reminded Tails, "and we and our friends stopped that plot."

"But sometimes I wish good people, yet alone Cosmo could keep on living," Tails wailed.

Sonic thought for a while. How could he teach someone so young about death? He needed to try – he was Tails' brother after all.

Sonic calmly said, "Death is an equalizer. It applies to every living thing. It allows complete strangers, family and friends to finally care for one another. And that care is to stand by you and others who mourn. I care for you as much as I can. You do the same as well. That's what matters. Let's go to the altar together and put some incense there to remember them."

"O.K," Tails nervously nodded. He was still a bit confused about what Sonic was saying.

Sonic and Tails got some incense sticks, lit them and placed them into the box of sand on the altar. As they were about to take their seats…

"That is right Sonic," a girl's voice stated.

An aura of what looked like a humanoid plant shocked the living daylights out of Sonic and Tails as it appeared. Tails was frightened and went into a ball. Tails knew from his experience at Mystic Mansion that ghosts weren't his favourite things. In fact it was one of those things that scared the creeps out of him. He poked his head out and noticed something through his tearful eyes. Green, yellow and white attire, red bulbs on her head and blue eyes looked upon the two. The incense sticks laid inside the box scattered as Sonic and Tails only realized soon enough…

"Cosmo!" Sonic and Tails cried as they hugged her.

"It's alright. I'm a spirit form; my bodily remains have been laid to rest in this memorial. You remember seeing me for the last time?" Cosmo said.

"When I shot you?" Tails wept.

"No… in fact as a spirit form - after I was shot. Remember the words I said to you and your friends that day, 'I'll always be with you. Don't be sad, Tails. Whenever you miss me, just look for me right here beside you,'" Cosmo stated. Tails' weeping slowed down as he nodded, realising what had happened.

Cosmo continued with a few tears coming from her eyes, "I knew I couldn't live forever. None of us can! Think about it. Imagine I was a wave in an ocean enjoying the wind and fresh air. And you two as well."

Sonic shivered since he knew the dangers of drowning. Ever since he had close calls on the seaside, the fear still remained. But still he kept quiet.

"If I kept going beyond the shoreline, I would eventually leave a trail of destruction, like a tsunami. But as you know each wave must stop, crash against the shore and go back into the deep blue. You're a wave as well Tails, so is Sonic. Each of us has our end!" Cosmo explained, with one hand on Sonic's shoulder and another on Tails' shoulder... both momentarily.

Cosmo looked at the wet Tails, his face exhausted from crying. Cosmo looked at Sonic who she noticed had a little difficulty holding back tears. They sniffed. And Cosmo hugged them both.

"Is this what you're thinking when you see other waves like me crash against the shore…'this is terrible, look what is gonna happen to me. I'm going to crash. I'm going to be nothing! My life is worthless without you!' ?" Cosmo asked caringly. Tails nodded slowly and sat down, tired. Sonic nodded as well.

"I'm scared – I don't want to go!" Tails wept, feet becoming unsteady.

"Me neither," Sonic said, his hands shaking.

"Well, think about it this way… you're part of the ocean!" Cosmo cheerily said as she let go of them.

"I'm sad that I died. But in the end we need to face reality – death is the end of life – it happens. Even if we try to escape it, time eventually causes it. Why? Old age! Trying to deny reality is fighting the war in your head. Don't fight it! Is it worth it all in the end? I don't think so. If there's one lesson I learned in my entire life it is… once you learn how to die, you learn how to live. Do you understand?" Cosmo explained, her face shining with care.

Tails calmed down, shook his head and stood up.

"What do you mean Cosmo?" Tails asked.

"What Cosmo is saying is when you realize what legacy you want to leave behind when you die, you live for that up to and including the very end so you'll be remembered for that reason. Cosmo is right. True, death is the end. But we are parts of each other in the end too," Sonic commented with a few tears still in his eyes as he calmly realized the truth out loud, "The good news is that even when death ends a life, death never ends a relationship. You still love her. That's great! That's the important thing because love never dies. That's what will always be around regardless of what death does to me, you, Cosmo or any of our friends and loved ones."

"And love is always here to stay not for a year but forever and a day. Telephones, movies… they're just passing fancies and in time they go compared to love that's eternal. I remember reading a quotation by Professor Morrie Schwartz a few days before I knew I was going to die sometime soon. Perhaps now it will help you too. It says, 'As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.'" Cosmo said.

As she said this, those spirits of loved one whose bodies had long gone died –GUN personnel, Maria, family members, friends and many more… rose and saluted the pair. Cosmo saluted as well. In return Tails and Sonic saluted them back.

"Thank you so much for coming back… even if it is only for a while," Tails cried happily as he hugged Cosmo warmly one last time. Cosmo and Tails even kissed for one sweet moment. Sonic was so grateful that Cosmo helped in explaining about death with him as Sonic hugged Cosmo.

"Oh and one more thing – Tails I see you're taking care of the seed I gave you. Whether it grows or not depends if you love it just as you loved me as well. I know you can do it. No matter where I am – I'll stand by you, I'm with you always. The same with your and our loved ones. Keep on loving Sonic and Tails! Live life! Goodbye!" Cosmo farewelled. She put on a smile and waved to her friends. The rest of the spirits did the same.

"See you someday Cosmo! Goodbye!" Sonic and Tails replied as they waved to them.

Sonic and Tails hugged each other as the spirits departed. They had each other with love binding them, their friends and family wherever they were. They knew in the end, they would always have each other, standing by each other and loving each other regardless what life or death could throw at them.

Author's Note (6/2/2015): Stand By You – The Final Lesson was inspired by two songs - Marlissa Punzalan's "Stand By You" and George Gershwin's "Love is Here to Stay".

Author's Note and Update (12/2/2016): Stand By You – The Final Lesson has been published in its final draft. This brought me tears to my eyes as I proofread it.

Death is one of most confronting subjects to understand and know about in today's world. From my experience, talking about death, writing about death and comforting people who are in grief, brings peace to those who mourn and encounter death. I hope with this story that I have done this to the best of my ability.

Your constructive reviews and favourites of this story are greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Captain Hwawrang.