The Old Man – a short story
The old man stood by the coffin and sighed. He had meant to leave earlier, yet somehow his departure had been delayed and he’d been forced to rush to the church.He had stopped by his home on the way down to collect a few things – his favourite purple raincoat, his wife’s rainbow umbrella and a small chest he kept in the upstairs library. Outside it was chilly, but he hadn’t felt a thing as he walked silently along the pavement.
By the time he arrived in proximity of the church, the sky had turned to a dank and mouldy grey, and the rain had started pouring down heavily around him. He felt as if he was sensing the rain on his skin rather than actually feeling it, but he guessed it was part of the package. He could still smell it, though. That fresh scent that in spring carried with it all the gorgeous scents of nature, from swaying leaves to new budding flowers, the scent that spilled from every corner of the sky in autumn, tainted with the smell of wet firewood and a freedom that only seems to come when the trees are brave enough to shake and rattle away their plumage, leaving behind only exposed bark and a little moss to show for their greatness. This was rain. He held on to that feeling as he passed the threshold of the church, and walked to stand by his family in the front row.
He noticed his wife shiver, and cursed himself for being too far away to comfort her. He was glad his country didn’t have any traditions that meant the coffin had to stay open. He couldn’t have bared staring at his own face for one more second. He was accustomed to death by now, even though his soul had only left that encircling darkness about an hour ago, so that was not the problem. He was surprised with how his body had been bashed about in death, yet all of a sudden he recalled how hurried the funeral home had been with bringing his body to the church in time for the service. His passing had been quite a shock to everyone, most of all his wife, for whom it had been a challenging time, what with making all necessary arrangements. He understood his wife’s pain, but under it he also felt a sense of relief coming from her that he could only explain as a kind of peace that only comes when you know your loved one is being taken care of, and the thought that his wife knew he was in very good hands deeply reassured him.
He had, as a matter of fact, already met Mr. God. He had seemed like a jolly man, but age had taken its toll and a little more. God reminded him of a president of sorts. He made sure to welcome everyone as best he could, and later left them to their own devices. He didn’t seem too bothered by what the souls would do in their Afterlife, so long as he was keeping an eye on those left behind to deal with the world. He had personally told the old man that really, life after life was for him to explore: everyone seemed to enjoy taking their time in eternity, and everyone was still their own person. It appeared as if no one was tied down or hurried about meeting family or friends. Everyone simply was, and that was the best Paradise anyone could’ve asked for, really. He had then trotted down to Earth to try and make it to his own funeral, but the old habits of Heaven had already made their way towards his being, and so he arrived later than he had originally anticipated. Maybe he could ask God a little about how to deal with time in the other realm. After all, he presumed he had at least a few thousand years of experience with it, that he simply could not come close to reaching in two hours of being dead.
In the midst of his thoughts, the old man was suddenly brought back by the start of the choir’s singing. The children were singing beautifully, he thought, but then he noticed a few angles appear a few feet above the children’s heads. He guessed everyone needed a little help once in awhile, even with singing at a funeral. From where he was standing, he observed his daughter sitting in the front row. Her face was tight and her eyes closed. She was shaking with every breath, and he simply watched as his strong willed child fought back tears. It saddened him to see her in such a state, but her reaction wasn’t entirely a surprise.it was not uncommon of his daughter to hide her pain for the sake of helping her loved ones keep together. He would miss her, in this next life.
Suddenly his granddaughter turned, alert, perhaps sensing something out of the ordinary. He whistled, and as her head turned to face him he smiled a kind smile. His granddaughter laughed and waved, and the sight filled him with joy. Her attention however soon faltered and she turned once more to her mother. He had not expected to be noticed at all by the living, and although his funny bone was itching to test his relatives’ tolerance to spirits from the other side, he held himself back – he had other things to do. He took one last look at his wife and walked out of the church, leaving his old body behind.
end of part one
Isabella Makar Stanich