His wife sat silently in the first row of the gingerbread church. She seemed not to be moved, but inside her, a continuous well of tears grew. Time. So much time. And only he. Only he for all those years.
She remembered the spring of their first meeting, 60 years previous. He had knocked on the door of her small cottage on the outskirts of town asking to borrow some flour to bake bread in his newly built oven. He would later reveal that day that he had known of her for years previous. She, slightly older, had been a fixture in his gaze, from schoolyard to the local church hall. Many times he had hoped to talk to her. Her ice blonde long hair and deep eyes had attracted him, as well as the way she moved from place to place with such ease.
Years passed, and their love grew. Their marriage was a quiet affair. In those early years, the town was smaller then. Under a rare sunlit sky, the local minister and a small band of close acquaintances watched as they kissed each other softly, and tenderly held each others hands. Hands that would hold a bond for the many years to come.
The old man had seen many winters. His wrinkled skin as much a cause of age as the landscape that had surrounded him for his life. The grey hair adorning his scalp was much like the mountains in the distance that surrounded the town. Whips of muted colours on an aged body. A small smile was on his face, as though time had passed, but his joy for life had not.
As he lay in the hand made wooden coffin, locals moved towards it, clumping in small groups to pay their respects. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Small children inquisitively arching their heels to look inside the box. Peering over the aged timber with wide, open blue eyes.
His wife watched this parade. Their circles had grown, and dwindled.
A creak was heard. The as yet repaired floorboard at the back of the hall. All heads turned in a simultaneous motion. At the entrance he stood. His eyes and ways matched the old womans, albeit with a new distance as a result of his own personal outcasting.
Slowly, the old woman stood. She grasped the pew, the weight of time seeming like concrete in her bones. This moment was not planned. She stared at the man, no longer a boy, before looking deeply into him, yearning for answers to a million questions. Though time now was against her, age barrelling towards an inevitability. All those questions would not be answered, and acceptance filled her heart.
He walked forward, slowing his pace as he neared her. He suddenly reverted to his ten year old self understanding the complexity of the mother and son relationship, boiling it down to an age where her embrace was the ultimate prize.
She looked into his eyes. Doubt faded. Acceptance grew. Words were pointless to explore, knowing that all that had come before could be water under the bridge.
She reached her hand out, her frail limbs aching from the effort, but necessary for the resolution. He moved towards her and took her hand whilst the other softly brought her head to his chest. He placed his chin on her crown, as they braced each other.
Much like we tightly brace for the winds that flow from the arctic. And we sink into the warm glow of what was, what is, and will always be.