It was about three months ago, and I was visiting a graveyard. It was a grey day. The sky was grey, everything around me was grey except for an occasional bunch of flowers which punctuated the lines of leaning grey headstones with splodges of colour.
My eye was caught by grave which stood out from the rest. Instead of dreary grey, it was white. Pure white marble.
Alongside a young man knelt, a posey of white roses in his hand. As I walked closer he nodded his head toward me, and I felt the need to stop and look on. I read the inscription on the headstone. Arthur Mason 1963 – 2009 In God’s Hands Now.
A relation?” I asked.
“My father” he replied.
The young man placed his flowers on the stones and stood up.
“Rick” he said as he stretched out his hand. “Rick Mason”
I introduced myself and then we chatted for a bit about what it meant to visit a departed loved one. Walking out of the churchyard he pointed towards the inn opposite.
“I’m having a beer in my Dad’s favourite pub” he said “I always like to raise my glass to him after we’ve had a graveside chat! Fancy joining me?”
Never one to turn down a pint I followed him into the Good Intent here we sat in front of a crackling log fire with tankards of frothing ale in our fists.
Rick told me that his Dad was well known in this pub for his party trick. It seems that after a drink or two he often claimed to have healing hands. If someone complained of a headache he’d negotiate a fee, usually a pint of best bitter, then place his hand on his patients head, mutter some mumbo jumbo and the headache would seemingly disappear. No one took it really seriously though. Perhaps the headache went naturally, perhaps they just thought it had as they got carried along by the laughter and applause. Who knows? Arthur claimed that after performing his miracle cure the pain would transfer itself to him! "Nothing a couple of aspirin won’t cure" he'd say as he downed his reward.
Now and again he was asked to heal a cut finger or a bruised arm. “Not my field” he would say! He only dealt with pain unseen.
One day a girl told him that she couldn’t sit on a bar stool because she’d been stung on the bum by a bee! After agreeing a price, a large malt whiskey, he took great pleasure in stroking the girl’s rear, and then took a bow as the young lady declared the ache gone. He then went to sit on his chair then leapt to his feet again saying he was unable to sit for the pain!
Suddenly the smile disappeared from Ricks face. He held his glass in both hands and stared into it as if examining its contents. Very quietly and without looking up, Rick said “A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer”. There was a period of uncomfortable silence. He raised his head and looked me in the eye. “My father was distraught when I told him” he continued. “He'd never been one for physical contact where I was concerned but that day he held me tightly in his arms and told me not to worry. Everything would be alright”The strangest thing happened. A few weeks later a scan showed that Rick’s cancer had disappeared without a trace. And soon after, Arthur died from the same cancer that had once afflicted Rick.
We finished our drinks and prepared to leave the pub. I stood up and caught my head with a crash on the shelf above the inglenook fireplace. I remember that it really hurt. We walked out into the street and shook hands. Then Rick ruffled my hair and said “Next time you go in there beware of the low flying shelf!”
“I certainly will” I said. Then as we walked away from each other I realised the pain from my bump had gone. I looked over my shoulder and saw Rick disappearing into the distance, rubbing his head.