Tom and Emma met and courted in the mid-Fifties when they were still in their teens. Both were, what were called ‘war babies’ – born during the terrible years of the Second World War. There was no better time to be young than in that era. People were happy, kind and families lived close together. Even many decades later, historians view the Fifties as ‘the good old days’. And to those who lived through them, they were ‘a time to remember’ and ‘the best of times’.
They loved to court holding hands on a solitary wooden bench overlooking the harbour. One day Emma looked at the evening sky above and said “Don’t you think that it is magical and extraordinary here, just you and me and no one else?” Tom took her hand in his and with a pang in his heart replied, “The trouble is Emma, that this is an ordinary world, nothing magical about it. It’s a real world. You cannot live in fairyland. Fairyland is for kids!”
Emma was surprised by Tom’s reaction. She looked again at the twinkling stars and exclaimed, “But it does look like fairyland out there.” Tom grinned, “Those stars are a million miles away Emma. It’s a long long way to fairyland.” They were married two years later in a little church on the hill which, according to tradition, was built on the same site from where St. Paul had departed Malta for Rome in AD 61. As he waited for her on the altar steps he felt pride bursting from his chest and love shining from his eyes seeing her coming in on her father’s arm, in her white wedding dress and a long train after her. That was the first memorable day in their life!
They were blessed with a son two years after they were married. Both their hearts were filled with joy and they were so happy. It was their second memorable day! And then life moved on like a fast train. As it did for so many others, it had its ups and downs, its laughter and tears, its joy and heartaches.
They liked to travel abroad – to London, to Rome and to other big cities. They enjoyed each other’s company and that of their fast-growing son. They cried as they suffered the death of loved ones along the way. Life has a funny way of rising and falling, dipping and diving, and they just had to sit tight for the ride.
“Do you think that love will last forever Tom?” she had asked all of a sudden one fine summer day while on their bench. “I think so Emma. As we have been taught to believe since childhood, our body is expendable, but our soul is ever-lasting. So I do believe that through our soul, true love will never end.” he replied rather philosophically.
They were alone again in the Eighties when their son married and they missed him terribly. They were overjoyed and immensely proud when they were grandparents a year later. That was the third memorable day of their life! The years rolled by as they waited for no one and they grew old together. Life was not always a bed of roses but it had its good times and moments of joy.
They walked a lot during their elderly years. It was their doctor’s advice to keep fit and healthy. Often they went to their old site, facing the harbour where they used to court so many years ago. They rested their tired limbs on the new bench and as they looked out towards the open sea in front of them, their life flashed before them like a newsreel in the cinema.
They spent the winter months huddled together on their sofa in the living room. All the while they exchanged repeated recollections of events that changed their life in the past – “Do you remember the time when………………?” He or she would ask.
The room decorations characterized their past. Two Minton China plates hung on the walls; framed family photos sat on tables and other furniture. Most of these decorations tell stories of their life together. They reminded them of various celebrations and of countries they visited abroad. And then there were the photo albums. Oh how many memories! How many stories!
“You know something Emma? I wouldn’t change anything we’ve done together all those years ago.” He said pulling her to him and kissing her affectionately on the tip of her nose. “I wouldn’t either. It’s such a beautiful world. Is it not wonderful to watch it go by together!” she replied.
For one fleeting moment they were young lovers all over again and the whole world belonged to them. Then they leaned back, he with his arm around her shoulders and, as they had done so many times in the past, they started to hum softly together the song that both of them loved so much in the Fifties – Doris Day’s “The Black Hills of Dakota”. They stood there all afternoon, soothed by the glorious sunshine, reliving the past and dreaming of the future.
Tom died when he had reached the ripe old age of 82. He had been given the last rites and Emma stayed with him throughout the ordeal. She sat down near his bed, still holding on to his hand, praying silently, until, at a quarter to four on that April morning, Tom slipped out of life. She put her cheeks against his still-warm hand and sobbed as the priest intoned the ‘De Profundis’ to speed the soul of this gentle man towards the Maker.
Emma lived for four more years, yearning for the day when she would meet her beloved Tom once again. She died serenely in her sleep while around her stood the loved ones, saddened by the loss they had suffered.
But that is not the end of the story. Tom was waiting for his Emma at the Heavenly Gates with open arms and a broad smile on his face. He welcomed her to him as she came up from the mist. “I’ve missed you Emma. I told you so many years ago that true love will never die! It’s up to us now to look down on our loved ones and watch over them as they pursue their own lives”.
The good Lord and the angels looked approvingly on this little scene, then they moved back and closed the Gates.