2nd December

The Funeral

A man was walking along a narrow country road when he saw a funeral cortège coming in the opposite direction. He had passed a small, beautifully kept graveyard only minutes before – had stopped and looked over its wall to admire it – so it was clear to him that this must be the destination of the procession. He stepped onto the grass verge and waited for it to go by.

One of the men shouldering the coffin seemed familiar. He bore a remarkable resemblance to his oldest friend, Malcolm. And was that not . . . ? But before he could identify the next pallbearer he received a further shock. For, walking behind the coffin, dressed in black and looking straight ahead, was a woman the very image of his own dear Ellen, accompanied by their two children!

The long line of mourners continued. He knew many of their faces. Some turned towards him, but did not seem to see him. And he realised that he could hear nothing – not their footsteps, not a cough or whispered word, not even the birds singing.

Unable to speak or move, he waited till the last of the mourners had gone by. His own funeral? How could this be? He hurried back to the graveyard.

But when he arrived, nobody was there but himself. And the birds were singing once more.

He was filled with relief, but immediately this turned to fear. What did the vision mean? And where was he?

It was this last question that brought him to himself. He woke, as if from
a dream – and it was a dream! He was at home, in the garden. The sun was shining, birds were singing. The thing had not occurred at all!

He breathed more easily. But again the fear set in, for now he remembered the road, the tranquil graveyard. He recognised them: they were in the Highlands, close to the village where the family had often spent holidays: a place of fond memories . . . and a place to which they intended to return the following summer.

I cannot go, he thought. Something will happen if I go.

But he knew that fate, or the future, could not thus be avoided.

Reader: Claire Sawers
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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