My Beloved Edith
Arthur stood at the gates and waited for the man to come. He was early today, keen to get started. He rubbed his hands together to stimulate the circulation and peered through the railings. Finally, the man arrived and unlocked the gate. He pulled at the heavy iron frame and it slowly opened.
'Mornin' Albert, how are you feelin' today?'
'This could be the one, do you think?' the man enthused.
'Aye. Ah think ye could be right.' Albert smiled and the man returned to the gatehouse. Albert walked slowly up the driveway and then he stopped. He couldn't remember where he had finished yesterday. His memory wasn't what it used to be. He reached into his overcoat pocket and pulled out his map. He checked the last entry. John Macleod, 23rd September. That was three days ago. He'd either forgotten to update his list or he hadn't been at all.
'You're a bloody fool, Arthur.' He shrugged his shoulders. 'Oh well, I'll just have to start from Mr Macleod.' Using the map for guidance, he made his way to the desired plot and set to work.
After he'd finished a row, his hip started playing up. He sat down on a nearby bench and rubbed his leg.
'Time for a wee dram.' He thought. He unbuttoned his coat and removed a half bottle from the breast pocket of his suit. He took a couple of sips and replaced the cap.
'I better no drink too much of this,' he said, 'otherwise I'll get lost again.' Then he unwrapped his lunch. It was his favourite, a mutton piece with onion and mustard. As he chewed on his sandwich, he started thinking about the old days. Sometimes he could remember her quite clearly, her face right at the front of his mind, her eyes and mouth smiling at him. But then there were days when he could barely picture her at all. He had to write things down, but it was hard to do that all the time. Suddenly, he started to panic. He'd forgotten her name. This was his greatest fear.
'What was it Agnes ...? Edna ...? No, that's not right ... Alice ...?' Names were flying in and out of his head but none of them seemed quite right.
'Awe for Christ sake ... just think ...' he rubbed his forehead. 'Elise ... Amanda ...'
It was no use. The only thing he could do was to carry on and hope that the name would pop back into his mind. He finished his lunch, pushed himself to his feet and returned to where he had stopped.
He looked down at the stone in front of him. William Rennie 1867 - 1922.
'Well that's not her,' he thought. He continued along the line. Margaret Forsyth, 1899-1948. He stared at the headstone.
'Could she be a Margaret? No ... I don't think so.' He moved on to another, and then another until he was at the end of the row. He got out his map and wrote down the name. Frank Gilroy 1903-1953, Row 7, 26th September. And so he continued. Row after row he searched, hoping that he'd come across something that would awaken his memory. But he still couldn't remember her name. This was the longest he'd forgotten it. He didn't know what to do. He sat down again and rested his hip. He took another few swigs of whisky and examined his map.
'That's eight rows done ... I'll do another two and that'll be me for the day.' He was breathing heavy. The walking and the strain of trying to remember were tiring him out. He started on another row, Robert Hughes 1907-1979.
It was beginning to get dark. He was about to give up when he stopped at a small grave. It read,
To my Beloved Edith
Rest in Heaven
He couldn't breath. He staggered back and then steadied himself.
'Edith ... That's her name. That is it.' he thought. And then he realised.
'Oh my God, Edith ... I've found you.' He bent down and touched the stone with the back of his hand, the way he used to touch her face.
'My beloved ... Edith ... I've been looking for you for a long, long time. How did you no help me find you?' He rested his cheek on the cold marble and started to weep. It was like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. All those years without her had come to an end. He could finally grieve again for the woman he had lost so long ago. He looked at the plot again. It was covered in weeds, and moss had started growing inside the inscription.
'What have you done to yourself?' he said 'You need a good spruce up.' Ignoring the pain in his joints, he got down on one knee and started pulling at the weeds.
'You've got yourself in a right old mess. You need me to look after you don't you?' He put the weeds in his pocket and tried to rub the mould off the decorative stones that had been placed around the border. He picked at the moss with his nails and muttered under his breath. Suddenly, he stopped. He remembered about the man. Using the gravestone for support, he slowly pushed himself up again.
'I've got to go, my love. But I'll be back tomorrow. I'll bring you flowers. I'll see if I can get you some fuchsias. I know how much you like them.' He ran his fingers across her name.
'See you tomorrow, my Edith.' He blew her a silent kiss and made his way back through the rows of crosses and carved angels to the entrance. When he reached the gate, he steadied himself against the railings.
'What was the date again?' He thought '1947.' Little threads of doubt started fluttering around his head.
'I'm not sure that's right ... When was it ... just after the war ... and we'd moved to Denistoun. Tom would have been four. Was it 47? Or 48?' He tried to work it out with his fingers. Just then the man reappeared.
'Awe right Arthur. Any luck today?'
'I thought so ... but now I'm no sure ... I'll need to check something when I get home.'
'Oh well there's always tomorrow if she's no the right one.'
Arthur stepped out of the cemetery. The man closed the gate behind him, wrapped the chain around the metal frame and snapped the padlock shut.
'I'll see you tomorrow Arthur.' but Arthur didn't reply. He was deep in thought.
'His time will come' the man muttered to himself and he went back into the gatehouse.