For the Love of Mary

The old man sits on the bench outside of the pub a sandwich left by a thoughtful stranger beside him.  This is his world, his bench and at this moment in time his very existence.  He is always there, whatever the weather and whatever the time of year.  He sits, one weary leg crossed over the other looking at the traffic on the busy road as if he might be surveying a beautiful scene and maybe to him it is.  The locals think they know him, wave and call out on passing. They leave him the odd sandwich or pack of tobacco and call him mate, although no one really knows him, where he comes from and who he was once.   The men that frequent the pub stop and talk to him on occasion, maybe while having a cigarette outside.  He welcomes the conversation but does not demand the attention, he is happy with the way things are.  Chitchat is light and flippant and it is rare that anyone really tries to understand the old gent.

He has been sleeping in the park for nearly two years now.  After Mary died he just couldn’t bring himself to stay in the house.  Not that he didn’t try, day after day he battled against the urge to run out of the door her body had been carried from.  He attempted to shop and care for himself but he had no idea how to do it as Mary had done everything for them both for over fifty years.  They had never had children, they had talked about it early on in their marriage but it never happened and as you did back then, they left it at that.  They were company enough for each other, the routine and daily rituals helped but it was the adoration that cemented them to each other for all those years.   Words were not always needed between them, they knew how each other felt, many an hour was spent sitting together in silence by the gas fire.  To live such a joyous life with the person you love is a blessing that is not given to many, he knew this and although alone in the world treasured the memory of his Mary.  He left the house on the day he realised it had changed, it was no longer their home.  The piles of dirty dishes, newspapers and flies around the rubbish had left the home beyond recognition, and if it wasn’t their home any more he wouldn’t stay.

The park was close to the house, he walked up the street sometimes to look at the boarded up and over grown home they had shared.  No one recognised him, that is if they had really ever known him in the first place being too busy to care in this busy city street.  He would stand for a moment, looking at the house, silently calling Mary’s name.  He walked into the garden once and sat with his memories, under the lilac tree turning the door key over in his hand, deep in his pocket, it was too much to bare and he left after ten short minutes.

He wore a long beard now, straggled and stained yellow with tobacco.  His once tidy department store suit hung from his body, stained and old.  An overcoat given to him by a kindly stranger outside the pub covered his shrinking frame.

They found him dead in June, on the bench outside the pub.  Kind words were said for the old man, although no one knew his name.  It was only the smell on the warm summer breeze that had alerted the bar maid to his death.  He was sitting as usual watching the traffic, a smile on his face and a picture of his Mary in his hand.  It was the anniversary of their wedding day that he died and like all those years ago at the alter, Mary was waiting for him.

The Journey

The path was of red brick, it suggested a connection with the earth.  She trod lightly upon the path and yet her steps were purposeful, she needed to reach her destination.

She was looking down at the path, as she had been told to at the beginning of the journey, focusing just ahead and a little afraid to look up in case she lost her way and the path disappeared.  She watched and counted, as her feet stepped out beneath her believing, as she travelled that she was there.   As she began to feel at ease with her surroundings she widened her gaze to look outside of the path, lifting her head slightly, while at the same time ensuring the path remained within her vision.  A butterfly flew lightly by, enticing her from her path, to follow its beauty, for just a fleeting moment.  The butterfly flew on the breeze across a garden of country flowers to join other butterflies dusted across the landscape.  Her ears tuned themselves to the scene and brought with them gentle bird song to what had originally been silence.  About a foot in front she saw a peacock, its tail splayed proudly as it too walked the path.  She stopped to pick a lost and solitary feather from the path.

She had been told to look for a seat and there it was framed beneath the buddleia, the lilac of the tree casting a gentle hue on the wood.  The seat was an old tree trunk on its side to make a bench long enough for three people.  Although the trunk was old it shone in the sunlight as if highly polished and the surface had been flattened for sitting.  Rings on the yellow tinged wood suggested a great age and although no longer as part of a tree it looked healthy and alive.  Butterflies surrounded the tall buddleia tree so it appeared to be moving and amass with colours framing the seat beneath.

She sat on the seat, her feet just off the floor and waited as she had been told by her tutor.  Beside her there was her diary, she hadn’t brought this along it had been lost many years ago but she knew it was hers by the inscription.  Her grandfather had given the diary to her as a child, it held those precious childhood memories she had almost forgotten.  She lifted the book and read from the pages, her childhood scrawl, familiar and yet forgotten.  The passion and innocence of the child she once was joining her now all these years later.

Looking up she saw her grandfather, not the sick man she had last seen but a healthy smiling man.  He was standing next to another gentleman, he appeared to be Indian and wrapped in cloth, he appeared from looking at him, to be wise.  Her grandfather glancing once at the man at his side for permission, walked to join her on the bench.  He didn’t say anything as he joined her, just sat with her looking out at the beautiful garden and the wise man in the distance.   There was a remembered closeness between them that didn’t need words, a closeness that had been forgotten.

He held out his hand to her, a crystal shone in his palm.  Taking the crystal she looked into it and knew it represented a church and the learning within, there were no words.  The crystal was for her, she knew this and it would represent the journey yet to be travelled.  It signified all that was yet to be learnt, the possibilities ahead as well as the happiness and understanding these lessons would bring.

She looked up at him, a tear trickled down his face but the eye that it came from was smiling.  He stood up and without a word walked to join the man standing in the distance.  She knew that this man was his friend here and that he was also a teacher.  The crystal she held in her hands would hold some of his lessons, she felt the warmth from the stone.

She walked back down the path towards the wooden door she had entered from.  Her hand on the handle she turned to look once more into the garden but her grandfather was gone.

Opening her eyes slowly, she was back in the group, but she knew that the garden was easy to find again when she wanted to and she would certainly return.

The Whisper


Someone spoke into my ear, whispered clearly, a man’s voice I think, deep and soft, but I didn’t quite get it.  It woke me from my sleep although I don’t think I was quite there yet, just at that in between space between sleeping and not sleeping, that comfortable, warm trance like state we seek when attempting to meditate and switch off the world.  I sat up and looked around the room for the source of the whisper, looking into the spectrum of grey mist and shadow.  The moon was bright and the large sash window cast shadows around the room, but they were just shadows, everything being familiar and as it was when I turned off the light. My cat Eris, watched curiously from the bottom of the bed, I could just see her outline and feel the warmth of her body stretched across my feet and although I…

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I believe in life after death but it scares me.

My fear, I know is only the fear of the unknown, like how I felt before I ever flew in an airplane.  All of those unanswered questions, how would it stay up in the air, would I survive the fall if it didn’t.  Then my father took me up in a small cessna, we soared above the land and into the clouds, free and at one with the beauty of the sky.  My stomach moved with the wind, up to greet my heart and down again.  My feet, so redundant from the earth, hung from my small body waiting for their next step.

It’s the same with many new experiences, snorkeling, writing, speaking out in public, a new job and those first date nerves.  Until I have reached the other side of the experience I have no map of it or understanding.  It is clearly the transition and loss of any control that scares me not the event.

The separation of my soul from my body worries me, will it know where to go will it leave anything behind, what colour will it be and what will that say about me.  What about the scars, how will the soul carry these memories.  What about these poor souls you hear about that are lost, left to wander the earth until rescued, will my soul find its way.

We get so entrenched in our lives as they are, without the chains that hold us to the everyday, what will we do without these ties.  It took me a year to get used to being me after I quit the job I felt I was dying in.  I had spent years going through the motions that I felt kept me safe in a job I was not happy or ever my true self in.

This year I have found me, talked to myself and explored my new world.  I have made new friends, much kinder, more interesting friends.  The reason for this I think is because they are the people I have met while doing the things I want to do, they like me are drawn to certain areas and experiences.  Through my new world I believe I have found love and that I really care about the people in my life, not for what they give me but for what we share.

I do worry about those people I love when I die, the separation from them even if only for a short while pains me to think about.  Will I really be able to see my family grow, will I carry my worries as a parent with me or will I know then that everything will be okay.  Will my son feel me close by and catch me from the corner of his eye, will he notice the signs. What about the people who wait to greet me, that have been watching my mistakes on earth, will they too understand.

When we make this next transition, will we understand, does the soul that has travelled through many lives really recall them all.  Will this last existence make sense when remembered with all the others.

And then what……