My friend Katherine

Every Thursday Katherine puts on her favourite shoes and heads to the cemetery. It’s a twenty minute walk, but she enjoys the exercise. On the way, she stops at the flower stall by the cemetery gate.

She runs her eyes across the bulbs on sale and greets the old Polish lady and asks after her family. In her broken English, the woman thanks her and shares a bit of her heart: she complains about her lazy son; she complains about the rising prices; she talks about the village she grew up in and will never see again. She also offers Katherine her best prices. “For others I charge more, but for you this is good,” she says with a toothy grin.

Today Katherine picks up a bunch of tulips; last week she chose orchids. She says her thanks and walks on. Once in the graveyard, she looks around and greets its inhabitants. The gravestones stand tall, some intricate and elaborate, others simple and steady. She looks past the ones with flowers and candles; the love (duty, obligation or guilt, in some cases) of their close ones on display. Instead, she heads over to one of the yard’s lonelier residents; people forgotten by time and left alone to stand in stone. She places the flowers next to one such stone and says a silent prayer; partly for the departed soul and partly because some day she’ll need a friend too.

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