On My Way to the Writing Workshop
by Jaya Shepherd

I got the early bus, I didn't want to be late for the writing group, nothing is worse than arriving after things have started.
    There wasn't much traffic and I got there much too early. I wondered if I should go on to the next stop to use up the time but decided to get off at the right place. I followed the bus along the road, there was the smell of stale urine, whatever had I come to? I was apprehensive, anyway, about the prospect of spending the afternoon with people I had not met before.
    As I walked further along the road the smell didn't get any less, but the buildings looked more inviting, a few cottages with pretty front gardens and then some shops. A very small garden centre, perhaps to cater for the very small front gardens I had passed. I went in to see if they had anything that might enliven my garden.
    Inside there was an old man, probably in his eighties, looking at some small trees, silver birches and rowans. He turned round to speak to me as I squeezed past him in the small space.
    "I buried my wife last week," he began, "she always wanted a green burial, in fact we both decided years ago that we would like to be remembered by a tree planted on our graves.
    "It was very sad, but it was a beautiful service, we had it at Haycombe, you know, the top chapel, non of this cremation business for us. There were so many friends and family there , the church was full. Then we walked down to the woodland buriel site. My poor Sheila was lowered into the grave in her wicker coffin. We said a few more prayers, it was the final goodbye.
    "We then went to the Rockery for tea. People were all so kind and supportive but the more time went on, the more emotional I got. Eventually when everyone had gone and I was alone at home, I burst into tears, I couldn't stop crying. I don't know how long it went on for, but well after dark."
    At this point a couple with two small children pushed past us to get to the back of the shop.
    The elderly man continued, "My poor Sheila, she was the love of my life, I suppose we had our ups and downs, everyone does, but about ten years ago her hands, her fingers really started quivering. It was just a nuisance at first, her cup would rattle in the saucer, then it got worse, the tea wouldn't stay in the cup. Then her arms and legs began to get stiff. The doctor wasn't sure what was the matter, so he sent her for some tests.
    "Sitting round waiting for hours in the hospital, nothing to do as you wait your turn. You could read a book or a magazine, but you get so worried about what they're going to tell you, you can't concentrate. So you look round the waiting room at the other people, wondering what's the matter with them. Why are they here? Sometimes with a couple you don't know which is the patient and which is the supporter, they both look so frail and elderly.
    "Anyway when the results came. they told us Sheila had Parkinson's Disease. This was a real blow, it is a long slow deterioration. The shakes get worse, the stiffness in the arms and legs gets worse and worse and that hurts too. They control it with drugs but that's not good either.
    "Eventually Sheila couldn't move, it was such a long slow business.
    " Now I've come to choose a tree to plant on her grave. It's difficult to decide which one to have. I think, perhaps, the silver birch, she'd have liked the white bark and fluttering leaves."
    I agreed that it would be wonderful as I tried to make my escape, I realised time was getting on. I was in danger of being late for my appointment. Out of the haven of the plant shop, back into the smelly, traffic filled street, and up the steep hill to the writing workshop.