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Friday, 9 September 2011

The Widow

Christmas lights twinkled in the gloom

                  The old country church stood behind, the sea of gravestones lay ahead and the long procession of family, friends and acquaintances followed the polished coffin. Mood, church, and sky –winter gray.  Will this day never end?
                  Two steps behind the pallbearers walked the raw widow, elegant in black, stunning in grief.  Her children, both under ten, on either side, the step-children flanking them.  Tight behind them, family buffering her from the collective grief. How do you go on from here?
                  Withered and weathered faces crumbled alike; friends and strangers held arms, tears tracing down cold pink cheeks.  She remained erect, as if painted into her sorrow until a sad little smile skitterd across her face like a faint sunbeam through a cloud, only to be swallowed by the ache in her eyes.  Surrounded by love and support she was lonelier than anyone there, yet more composed than most as the ropes let down her beloved into the ground. No! Not in the ground, please not in the cold ground – I’m not ready, I’m not … I’m not … Thud.
                  “Wonderful man.” Yes, too wonderful.
“He’ll be terribly missed,” You have no idea how much.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” You should have been here before, you’d believe it if you had seen him then.
More than three hundred times she received them as the endless line shuffled past the grave.  Compliments on the service, she had organized it; accolades on the children, she had raised them; praise for their accomplishments, she was the backbone. One by one they hugged the widow with ferocity or tenderness that underscored the hope that theirs would be the hug remembered, the hug that cured, the hug that removed the pain.  Poor kids, they shouldn’t even be here, this is so not a place for kids. No one realized she consoled more than she was consoled, she wiped more tears from others than from herself. Impervious, she took in their pain as if it did nothing to her own. It’s getting so cold, so dark. I hope everything’s ready at the house; can I bear it without you?
Back at the oversized cottage, the Christmas lights twinkled in the gloom, and the warm yellow glow in the windows spilled a cozy welcome to guests as they hurried up the freezing path. Over 200 pairs of feet made their way in seeking strength in numbers, respite in old friends. 
She had organized fires in all the grates, food and drinks for a feast, waiters and cooks, snacks and a space for kids, even a quiet room with a book for people to write memories in, “for the children when they grow up,” she’d said. Details, she was always in the details.
The widow, erect and spectacular, spoke to them all.  More hugs, conversation and memories. I can’t feel my feet, I wish I could sit down and be alone.  But no! I don’t want to be alone.
“Darling, you look wonderful, I’m so sorry …” You don’t even understand.
                   “Such an incredible man,” If they say that one more time I’m going to SCREAM!
                  “Such a wonderful man,” she smiled back again, you just don’t get it, do you? A small Mona-Lisa-smile warmed the casual observer.  Run!  I must run and hide.  The widow slipped away.  Upstairs, alone, she hugged his pillow and in silence lay. No arms would suffice, no words could comfort, no message relieve.
Time.  How much Time?  How much time is Time? The pillow absorbed the tears when they came and muffled the cries, as it would for the next 350 nights and so many days too.
Nine days before Christmas he’d died.  Three days before their daughter’s 10th birthday.  Too soon for my baby sister to be a widow.

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Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Cath Rathbone. (Copyright Catherine (Cath) Rathbone and Noony Brown)