Small flurries of snow flakes are beginning to drift across from the black-bellied clouds banking in the distance and as I hunch further into my over coat, I can feel them as they alight softly on my nose and brush against my eyelashes.
Christmas Eve and its freezing cold, and I’m standing in a churchyard as I have done every Christmas Eve for the last four years.
Oh I know it’s not everybody’s idea of the perfect way to spend what should be a time of celebration, a time to be with family and friends. But you see I am celebrating, celebrating Matthew’s life and his gift to me.
It was Xmas Eve five years ago when we said our final goodbyes. We didn’t know it then of course as we kissed and hugged and promised to return home on Boxing Day. And then he left to spend the holiday with his parents and me with mine.
It was the usual story, drunk driver, Christmas indulgence and Matt in his beloved Mini. He didn’t stand a chance against the enormous four wheel drive job bearing down on him. And that was that, I was left to grieve alone and heartbroken, and raging against the bloody injustice of life and swearing that I could never love any one else as I had loved Matt.
That we loved each other there was never any doubt for either of us. The moment I first laid eyes on him I was smitten. And he felt the attraction as well even though at the time, we were in a noisy student bar surrounded by friends all in various states of inebriation. And for the remainder of our time at university we were inseparable. Then we left, and lived together and we were happy, so bloody happy I can hardly find words to express it, so I won’t even try. Then some drunken arse in a Chelsea tractor ended that, and Matt was gone from me.
It was the first anniversary of his death when I made my first pilgrimage to his grave. A year of trying, and failing to come to terms with my loss, when the only palliative was my work, and the all too frequent nights when my only companion was a bottle or two of cheap plonk; when I would drink and cry myself into oblivion.
I was standing here as I am now, staring at the black marble headstone carved with his name, Matthew Robin Jefferson, (I often teased him about his middle name, he hated it) his age and date of death, like I’d ever forget that. I think I spoke aloud, I don’t remember, but I was begging him to give me a sign, a clue anything to let me know he was still with me, still watching me, still loving me as he used to. I was desperate with my grief and I couldn’t have cared less who heard my plea.
Then, and I swear this is true, from the hedge of yew trees by the path leading to the church; there came the plaintive poignant sound of a Robin. On and on he sang, the sound filling the quiet of the churchyard. And that song was my undoing for I broke down and wept like a child. I stood there sobbing and oblivious to anyone who may have been around. My tears dripping onto the small spray of holly I had brought for him, the only seasonal offering I could give him now.
The sudden feel of a hand on my shoulder was so unexpected in that lonely place that I jumped and turned around so quickly that I almost fell over.
‘Are you ok, mate?’
His voice was full of concern as he looked into my tear blotched and snotty face, and I felt suddenly embarrassed at being caught crying like a baby by this good looking guy.
I told him everything, leaving nothing out and as the afternoon sky darkened with the threat of snow, Anthony (for that was his name) and I were talking like old friends. He had been visiting his grandmother’s grave when he noticed me he explained, and felt somehow obliged to come over and offer his assistance. I don’t suppose the sight of a guy howling like a Banshee is something you see very often in a village churchyard. Then again, it is a place of remembrance and mourning.
That all happened four years ago now, and I am here again; still remembering my Matthew but not with the pain I used to feel. Life is good once more and I’m living life as Matt would have wanted me to.
I lay my spray of holly by the headstone, saying as I do ‘Happy Christmas Matt, and thank you my love’, then turn and walk towards the lych gate, where Anthony stands patiently waiting for me. As we walk towards the car, we both hear the sound of a Robin singing.
Laughing, I look up towards the snow laden sky,
This story appeared as part of the 2011 Speak it’s Name Advent Calendar.
Images – Google images.