Jake was a gardener. He was in his early sixties, a man still strong from a lifetime of physical labour, showing decades of good care.
Between shifts of working for people such as my friends, helping their London suburb yards to look their best, Jake visited his wife. He stopped by for a few minutes just about every day, rain or shine. Taking advantage of his vocational skills, he tended her grave, weeding, planting bulbs, plucking off spent flower heads.
One day, Jake saw that the grave next to his wife’s looked a little forlorn. So he trimmed its grass, and on his next trip he brought some posies to plant on it. Over time, little by little, he tidied the neighbouring graves, until he was caring for the entire row.
Although it was in a cemetery big enough to warrant a caretaker’s house at the front gates, the labour that Jake put in did not go unnoticed. In fact, it was the caretaker’s wife herself who saw this gentle soul arrive day after day, tarry a short while, and depart quietly, leaving the grounds fairer than when he had arrived. Emma had seen many people pass through the gates; Emma knew the faithful ones from the less-so.
When a full year had passed, Emma approached Jake. She told him of her sister Robyn, 53, a widow for two years already. “I think perhaps you are lonely, like Robyn,” said Emma. And she pressed into his hand a piece of paper with Robyn’s phone number.
Two weeks later, Jake came skipping onto my friends’ property, whistling as he tied off the morning glory strings and singing little snatches of song as he plied the edger. My friend could not contain her curiosity, and directly enquired as to what his good news might be.
“I’ve met a young lady,” quoth he, before gamboling off to tend the rosebush.