Saturday, December 13, 2014

a prayer for her troubles, whatever they might be

It was ten o clock in the morning. I was coming back from the school. I'd been called in to deal with a minor problem and I was preoccupied with that and almost didn't see the woman. A little lane way separates the school from the square. She was standing in the middle of it, looking a bit lost. I gave her a nod and a smile.

'Good morning,' I said.

I don't think she'd really noticed me before that. Middle-aged, like myself, she clutched a heavy dark coat around her against the biting cold of the day. Looking at me in a distracted fashion she caught sight of the clerical collar peeping out above the top toggle of my black duffle-coat. 

'Good morning, Father.' Looking a little anxious, she took a step closer. She had an envelope in one hand. 'Excuse me, Father,' she said. I stopped.
'I'm sorry,' I said. 'Yes?'
'Is there an funeral parlour around here?'
'There's a couple.' I pointed across the square to a green entrance. 'That's one there. Coady's.'
She shook her head.
'I think it's the other one I'm looking for.'
'Moran's? That's just up here on the left. I'll show you.' We walked on together.  'I'm not exactly sure which it is - I haven't had much dealings with them. But it's one of these.' 

I peered at the doors. Three houses up, there it was. Just an ordinary house on the square, with a small railed garden to the front. A little tree in it obscured the small sign in the front window with the words 'Moran's undertaker' in plain black type. 

'Here we are.' 

The door was open. Hanging from the knocker were some black ribbons. The woman took a deep breath and started for the gate. I glanced at the envelope in her hand. A Mass card? 

'Are you calling to pay your respects?' I asked. She paused.
'No,' she said. 'I have other business.'  She looked weary.
'Are you all right?' 
'I'm grand. Thank you, Father.'
'Are you sure?'
She just smiled at me. Did I only imagine it was a sad smile? Could it be any other kind on a woman who had business in a funeral parlour early on a bitterly cold morning? She walked slowly up the short path and disappeared through the open door. I turned and went on my way up the square, saying a little prayer for her and her troubles, whatever they might be.



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