Todd McGaffin wanted to ask Pastor Carl to go into the columbarium with him and share a prayer. Climbing the entry stairs, he gave a composed wave and the church secretary smiled in polite greeting. She was on the phone or he would have told her about last weekend. His boys – men now – had taken him, their wives and all the grandchildren out to dinner in honor of Pamela’s birthday. It had been a raucous meal filled with hugs. He’d hesitated at first, but now he was glad he went. The world was opening up again after the long shelter in place and people were joyous in celebrating their emergence.
In March the pastor had switched to Sunday Zoom services. Todd’s Head Usher duties were still on hiatus but, as a Church Elder, he had his own key. Todd liked to putter around the small campus, repairing what he could. Even if they weren’t holding services on location, someone needed to maintain the facility. Last month he’d rewired a couple broken lights, then sanded and painted the cabinets in the sacristy. Today he’d trimmed the hedges surrounding the parking lot. He didn’t have much money to give but it helped him feel like he was contributing.
Today would have been Pamela’s seventy-fourth birthday. Like a feather, she sat lightly in the top of his head, little things reminding him of her smile, her touch, her laughter. His eyes rimmed over with moisture. An iridescent shaft of light vibrated through the stained glass. Cherry-blossom. Her favorite shade. He noticed it everywhere. His chest prattled and stuttered with the piercing ache of it.
He had lost her forty-eight years ago. Most of the members of the congregation had not known her, could not remember her sweet gentleness. There was no one who shared his memories. The tumor in her brain slowly dissolved her ability to move. Her frail body cradled in his arms was too weak to raise her hand to touch his face. Her eyes, huge and smudged, pleaded with him to understand she could not fight any longer. She had died eight short years after they wed.
She had left him with twin boys to raise. She urged him to marry again for their sake. He had softly turned away the single ladies his well-meaning friends introduced him to and a few young widows. In truth, he barely noticed them. Pamela never stopped floating next to his shoulder. He told her the details of his day and shared a lifetime of observation.
Now on her birthday, he sought someone else who remembered her. Perhaps then, the loneliness pulling at him would lessen. He missed her as much today as he had when she had left him. The ache had never abated. He ruefully admitted that he had nurtured the pain. It fit in his mind as familiar and comforting as an old pair of slippers.
When Todd knocked on his office door, Pastor Carl didn’t answer. He’d try again later. For now Todd would sit with Pamela. He’d developed a dry cough and everything tasted flavorless lately so perhaps he wouldn’t stay long. Her ashes were safely stored in the church’s columbarium, the niche to her right reserved for him. Carefully pillowing his memories, Todd slowly made his way there. Clipping the hedge had worn him out. As he sat in the stillness of the empty church, he coughed again. His finger caressed her nameplate. Yes, they’d be back together soon.
Nina Fosati loves portraiture and historic clothing. Beguiled, she regularly posts her favorites @NinaFosati. Recent writing has or will soon appear in jmww Journal, Nightingale + Sparrow, OyeDrum Magazine, and Disabled Voices Anthology. Her website is www.NinaFosati.com.
© 2020, Nina Fosati