On the bench by the willow, just beyond the gate at the end of the lane, sat Margot. Ever by her side, her old dog Gracie lay at her feet. Margot watched the sheep grazing at the far end of the meadow. Gracie snored quietly, nose twitching, in the gentle breeze.
Margot felt her years now, and she now moved in a slow, deliberate and slightly awkward fashion. It was easier to list the parts of her that didn’t hurt, rather outnumbered by the parts that did hurt. It had been three years since she’d lost her husband Sidney and she often came to this bench to pass the day, Gracie ever her companion. This was always the place they used to sit and laugh in the summer, or watch the snow fall in the winter. Memories. They gave her such comfort, yet were as transient as the breeze sometimes. Snatches of memory here or there, and as hard to grab as the breeze too, at least with her faltering memory.
‘If this bench could talk Gracie my dear’ she said stroking the soft fold of her ear.
Gracie didn’t reply but yawn-stretched into her hand.
Gracie was old too, and almost blind. The poor girl had a turn last year that she thought would be the end of her, but she pulled through and still wouldn’t leave Margot’s side. Like the bench by the willow, Gracie was a link to fond memories. Memories of Gracie cartwheeling out of control own the meadow in the snow as a puppy, Margot and Sidney slip-sliding after her. And the many sticks thrown and retrieved, thrown and retrieved in all seasons and all weathers. In many ways looking at Gracie was like looking at a photo album, a window into the past.
With the weight of years and loss it was hard not to view everything with a sadness. Even happy memories pulled at her heart, a deep ache hard to shake off. She closed her eyes as the sun brushed her face. The same sun that there has always been. Gracie stirred at her feet, easing some pained joint no doubt.
‘I don’t know who will say goodbye first Gracie my dear. Will I say goodbye to you, or will you say goodbye to me?’, she said. ‘I love you old girl.’
Gracie didn’t reply, but she did press deeper against Margot’s foot. They needed each other then. But they had each other, both old girls, eyes closed to the sun, as they breathed the breeze. Another shared moment, beside the willow overlooking the meadow. Just beyond the gate at the end of the lane.