Arriving back at 11.30 pm last night, I wondered who had called while I was away.There would be at least one regular who would call back today because I wasn’t here earlier in the week.
It was late afternoon before the doorbell rang.I recognised the silhouette before I had opened the door.
She had said that it would be Easter before she called again.I had doubted the promise when it was made and wasn’t surprised to see her.The little girl with her clearly had a heavy cold and clung to her mother’s leg.
‘I’ll be honest’, she said, ‘I’ve no money.This is what I spent it on’
She handed me an invoice from a monumental mason for a headstone.It was for €1,650.She had paid €250 this week and would pay the balance by instalments.
‘It’s for my daddy’s grave’, she said.‘ Someone had to pay for his headstone’.
This was a huge sum of money for someone who would be hard pressed to find the bus fare from here to Bray.
‘What about the rest of the family?’ I asked.
She shook her head.‘My brother’s on heroin.My sister doesn’t want to know.I tried the social welfare.They gave me a grant towards the funeral but said I couldn’t have anything for a headstone.How can you have a funeral and no headstone’.
I didn’t have an answer to her question.
Her father’s dignity mattered to her; his dignity demanded a headstone.Even if it meant she and the family spent weeks begging, there would be a headstone.
I gave her the last of my stock of grocery vouchers and she went away making the sign of the cross and saying prayers to herself.
I had spent the week attending postgraduate lectures in applied theology and hadn’t a clue about what she should have done about her daddy’s headstone.
Reality comes like a slap in the face.