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All the lonely people - The Adventures of Sophie-May

One Wednesday morning Sophie-May was taking the shortcut to university through the cemetery...

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One Wednesday morning Sophie-May was taking the shortcut to university through the cemetery. She noticed a priest performing a burial service but there were no mourners. As the coffin was lowered into the ground he said a prayer alone and crossed himself. Sophie-May couldn’t get the image of the lone priest at the graveside out of her head at all that day. She decided to take the long way home.

The thought stayed with Sophie-May over the next few days. She was wondering whose funeral it had been and where all their friends and family were or how it could be that they hadn’t had any. When the editor of the newspaper asked who she was going to be writing her story on for that week, she couldn’t think of anyone other than the solitary vicar.

The vicarage was a small, brick building across the road from St Christopher’s church. As she approached, Sophie-May could see a dim light coming from a downstairs room but all the other windows were dark and the curtains were drawn. She knocked on the heavy wooden door and was greeted by the plump, pink-cheeked vicar. His short hair was dark but Sophie-May noticed that his moustache and thick eyebrows were beginning to grey. He smiled and held out his hand and Sophie-May shook it.

“Hello dear, I’m Father McKenzie. Don’t stand out there in the cold, my dear, come on in.”

“Hello Father. Thank you for meeting with me.”

Sophie-May followed Father McKenzie into a tidy but cluttered sitting room and sat down on an overstuffed armchair. The priest moved some socks he had been mending before she arrived from his chair and sat down.

“So, my dear. What is it that brings you here?” he asked.

“I walked past a funeral earlier this week and noticed there was nobody there. It was so sad. I suppose I just wanted to come and talk to you about it and to see if you’ve noticed a difference in the size of the congregation at all lately. I’m looking at doing a story about it for the student newspaper, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, not at all.” He smiled and rubbed his hands together as if he were cold, though the open fire warmed the room pleasantly. Sophie-May removed her coat. “The funeral you saw was for a friend of mine, Eleanor. She used to help me out in the church, with things such as cleaning up after weddings. Weddings seem to be the only time I ever have a full church these days.”

“Why did nobody come to her funeral?”

“I don’t know if she had any family and as for friends, well, I never really saw her speak to anyone. She lived just a few doors down from here and I used to see her sitting and waiting at the window but I never found out who she was waiting for.  At least she has Our Lord to keep her company in Heaven now, God rest her soul.” He looked up at a framed portrait of the Virgin Mary and crossed himself. “Though she isn’t the first I’ve buried alone. I don’t know where all these lonely people come from.”

“That’s so sad. I’m sorry to hear it.”

“You are a good girl, dear.” He smiled at Sophie-May and she couldn’t help but return it, despite the sadness of his story.

“You said that weddings are the only time your church is full, so you have noticed a decline in numbers?” she asked.

“Unfortunately so. I often find myself writing sermons and think that no one will hear them. At times I have considered requesting to be moved to a bigger parish but every now and again someone will come to me and I know why I am here. Like poor Ms Rigby. This church and I provided somewhere for her to go, something to do and someone to talk to, though she didn’t talk to me much more than she did to anyone else. That is enough for me. I won’t be moving on anytime soon; you never know when I might be needed.”

Sophie-May stayed for a couple of cups of tea and said goodbye to Father McKenzie, promising to come and see him again soon. She had enjoyed his company and could spend hours looking at shelves of books and ornaments and all the pictures on the walls.

A couple of days after her story had been published, Sophie-May walked through the cemetery again. She found the grave of Eleanor Rigby and was delighted to see three bunches of flowers. Bending down, she read the names on the flowers’ notes. They had all been donated from staff or students from her university.

The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
Album: Revolver, 1966


Written by 1st year BA Writing & English student: Sophie May
Illustrated by 3rd year BA Illustration student: Emily Knight


Zacharia Oluoch
11:12am on 11 Mar 13 Really touching story.
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