He was still waiting, long after the funeral director had left. A shadow of a man sitting at the furthest pew from the altar.
Mrs Martin came in late to help with the wedding that day and nervously asked if they should tell him to leave. Politely, of course. Father Edward looked shocked, shook his head, and went to change his vestments.
The man was still there when the wedding party started to arrive. The ushers didn’t notice him at first, and when they did they assumed he was one of the guests. Children kept on tugging at their mother’s skirts, asking who the grey man was, and when the women looked, they felt awkward and embarrassed and apologised to him for their offspring. He said nothing, his sadness radiating out, his clothing dark as the grave.
The children played in the aisles, their shouts joyful, and the organist played rolling, glorious music.
By the time the groom arrived, the reverent’s dark tie had vanished, and a ghost of a smile flickered around his hollow features.
When the bride appeared, it was as if memories of sunlight had driven the darkness away. She was blushing, under her veil, and the spectre clutched his chest as if feeling for a beat in his broken heart for this vision.
The bride’s aunt took up her mantle as the one in charge of the event and went to speak with him. Afterwards, she reported that he was the most charming man, for one so elderly. She had asked him if he would join them at the reception, it startled him, but he graciously declined.
While he was caught in only some of the photographs, everyone could remember his smile, which grew with every passing moment. He sang along with great enthusiasm and didn’t have to share a hymn book. When the wedding vows were exchanged, Father Edward saw him wipe away a tear that ran down his pale white cheek.
Once the party were outside, assembling in groups to capture for all time that this day had happened, Father Edwards sat with him. They spoke for a moment. The man nodded, and they rose, holding hands as they walked out into the blazing light.
Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer in the North East of England. His works have been published in Ellipsis Zine, Retreat West and Bear Creek Gazette. He can be found on Twitter, being encouraging. @StevenPatchett7