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Sixpence

Sixpence
2
I watched her for a while, then moved closer. In my experience, people need a
little privacy at such times as these, but also need to know that someone is near.
Being on their own for too long is not a good thing.
‘May I sit down?’ I said.
Her head moved slightly up and down. Taking the movement as a sign of assent,
I sat down beside her.
‘Are you all right?’ I asked. It was a trite statement, but one has to say
something, and that fits as well as anything. It is contact, or an effort to gain contact
at any rate.
She shook her head. ‘No. I don’t think I’ll ever be quite all right again. On the
other hand, I expect I shall learn to live with it.’
‘We all do,’ I said. ‘Eventually. Sometimes, it needs a little help. If there is
anything I can do...’ I left the statement hanging in the air. It is possible to suggest,
but I never like to make people think they are being pressured.
‘I think not.’
‘The church is always open, if you prefer quiet contemplation. And my door is
always open too if you ever need anyone to talk to.’
She gave a weak smile. ‘Thank you vicar. It’s a nice gesture, but I’m a Catholic,
you see. Only a nominal one, but Catholic anyway, more by birth than by conviction.
I inherited it from my mother. It never meant very much to me. I was never even
confirmed, and I never go to mass, haven’t done for many years. I suppose I shall
roast for it, but I don’t care.’
‘We all serve the same God,’ I said. ‘The offer still stands.’ Catholic or anything
else makes no difference to me. I see the person rather than their beliefs.
‘Thank you,’ she said again.
‘Your husband wasn’t a Catholic?’ It sounded like a question, but wasn’t. I knew
the man slightly. Many people did.
‘Would it have mattered if he had been?’ she asked.
‘Not in the slightest. As I said, we all serve the same God.’
‘I’m not very sure what he was. He went to a Church of England School, that I
do know, and must have been raised as Church of England if anything at all. I don’t
think it mattered to him which church he was in. We were married in a Lutheran
church. It was as good as any.’
‘ It seems to mean something to you, when you brought him here’, I said. I knew
they were not regular members of my congregation, a fact which didn’t have the
slightest importance, but the Catholic connection had me puzzled. It wasn’t exactly
usual.
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