I’m exhausted. It’s no wonder really. I’ve barely slept for two nights. Everyone told me to rest up yesterday but how can you, when your mind won’t stop racing? Last night, every time I drifted off the dreams started: shouting and hammering, blood dripping in the darkness; someone screams and I wake up heart thumping to the same harsh rhythm.
So I’m giving up on sleep and rest now. I’m better off getting up and doing something, even at this hour. I’ve got to do something, get away on my own, go do the one last thing I can for him. I’m going to finish off properly the rush job the others did the day before yesterday. I’ll take plants, a watering can, and a little trowel to make it look beautiful, cared for, loved, just like he was.
It’s so early it’s still dark. The streets are cool and quiet, no one about, such a contrast to the last time I was here. My bag’s heavy but I don’t care. I just want to get there, do what I came to do, say what I want to say in private, pour it all out to him…as if he could still hear me.
When I get to the cemetery gate, weirdly it’s unlocked and slightly ajar. And where are the security guards? Not that it matters; in fact, it makes things easier for me – I hadn’t thought about how I’d get in before I left and at least there’s no awkward questions about what am I doing there at this hour.
Cautiously – I don’t want to trip or fall into anything – I make my way to the grave. It’s not easy to find in the dark, especially with no headstone yet to mark it. I’m looking for some freshly mounded earth but when I get to the place – and I know this is the right place – I’m stopped in my tracks. The grave’s been desecrated. All that’s there is a gaping hole. The lid of the coffin and has been flung to one side and there’s nothing in it!
Oh my God! I’m filled with horror. After all that’s happened, where on earth is he? What have they done with him? Haven’t we gone through enough?
I drop my things and hare back to the others. The boys will know what to do.
Well, they just run off to see if I’m right, not made a mistake. Mind numb and legs turned to jelly, all I can do is trudge after them.
By the time I get back to the cemetery, they’re already on their way back. I ask them if they know what’s happened but they just ignore me and keep walking. They have strange looks on their faces. The big man’s dumbfounded, scared even. But littl’un looks like it’s his birthday and he’s just been given the best present ever. There’s a stubbornness in both their expressions too, as if they’ve had a disagreement.
I watch them pass me and then carry on to the graveside. My things are still there and, anyway, I want to know what’s happened to the body.
It’s beginning to get light now as I get to the grave. I’m vaguely aware of birdsong around me. A bold blackbird forages for food within a few feet of me, strewing leaves and mulch in his wake. A squirrel runs up the fence and sits momentarily next to a pigeon. I’m concentrating on these mundane details to avoid looking at that hole in the ground.
But it has to be faced so I edge forwards and glance down into it again, to check that I haven’t been imagining things.
Then I get my second shock of the day. The grave isn’t empty at all. Through my tears, I can see two figures, one at each end, with a thermos and steaming cups of tea. Perhaps they’re gravediggers on their break – or grave robbers – although there’s no sign of their spades.
They glance up at me.
‘Why are you crying?’
Well, if they are grave robbers, or gravediggers, they might be the ones who’ve moved him. So I tell them that the body has been taken and I don’t know where it is. But I get no reply. They just stare at me, as if I know the answer to my own question.
This is too much. I’m beginning to doubt my own sanity.
I turn away and there’s another figure in front of me. Oh Lord, it must be the groundsman. The work day has well and truly started and I’ll get no peace to grieve now. Although how can I grieve if the body’s missing?
‘Why are you crying?’ he asks.
Why do people keep asking me that? It’s a cemetery! Who wouldn’t be crying here? But he carries on:
‘Who are you looking for?’
And I think to myself, that sounds a bit more helpful, maybe this guy knows where the body is? So I ask him.
He’s quiet for a moment and I’m aware that he’s looking at me with concern, really looking at me, but with a slight smile hovering at the edge of his lips. There’s only one person who ever looked at me like that. I’m thrown by the resemblance.
Then he says one word and that clinches it: my name. He says my name. Like he knows me. And I realise that he does know me. He knows me better than anyone. He’s the only one who ever knew me.
And the smile at the edges of his lips spreads right across his face as my mouth opens in amazement and wonder.
‘Oh! It’s you!’
I throw myself into his arms and he holds me in that bear hug of his. It’s like coming home.
After a little while, he gently takes me by the shoulders to look at me and speaks again.
‘We can’t stay here forever. There’ll be time for all this later. But you can’t keep this to yourself – I need you to go tell the rest of the family. Tell them I’m off to see our Dad.’
Reluctantly I let go of him, but I’m heartened by the promise that there’ll be more time, and I start to realise that I can’t be so unkind as not to share this with the others. They need to know what’s happened. They need to see what I’ve seen. They need to know the good news, this amazing, wonderful, incredible news.
I’ve got to let them know.