A few weeks later, after a long day at work, Dante made a pot of tea and knocked on Solomon’s door. There was no answer. He opened the door and found it empty. Usually, he was in his room by the evening.
Dante searched the manor until he finally came to the garage and found Solomon at the edge of it. He was sitting in a wooden rocking chair and staring at the view.
“Solomon,” Dante asked, “Would you like some tea?”
Solomon shook his head slowly, still staring at the end of the drive. He had declined in the past few weeks and no longer visited the sheep, which was sad for him. Sir Wortham didn’t expect him to do any more work these days, and Dante and Mrs. Brewer helped him with most things. Solomon rarely ventured from the house and instead would watch the world go by from his window. It was a surprise to find he had ventured to the garage and pulled out a chair.
Dante came and stood over him to watch the view. The smell of rain permeated the atmosphere. Great darkish clouds gathered in the sky. Eventually, water began to fall and sprinkle in the driveway.
As Dante pulled up a chair, Solomon smiled at the view. He turned a little and looked over at the droplets that formed on the tall grass next to the wall. “This is heaven, isn't it?”
Dante stopped adjusting his chair. “It does look like it.”
There was a great pause and then Solomon spoke, almost to himself, “This... it has been a good life.”
Dante reeled as if a brick had hit him in the chest. He turned and looked at Solomon, critically. He looked old, gaunt, and tired. He stared off into the distance, with a far-off look in his eye, as if he no longer belonged to the world of the living.
There was a long pause, and then Solomon added, thoughtfully. “The veil feels very thin tonight.”
Dante paused and considered the breakfast Solomon had refused this morning. Finally, he asked, “Solomon... are you dying?”
Solomon took a long, considerate pause, as if it took longer to recollect his thoughts. “I think so.”
Dante didn't know what to say at first. “I will send for the doctor.”
Solomon barely shook his head. “No. It’s time. I am ready to go home.”
Dante did not say anything to Solomon now. It bothered him that he was ready. He tried to think of something to say – to make him want to stay? - but there was nothing. Solomon was now traveling into the world of the things unsaid.
A little mouse ran across the garage and planted itself at the end, watching the rain with them.
Seeing the mouse made Dante think back to tending the lambs with Solomon. Something tightened in his throat and chest. He stood up and hugged Solomon in his chair. He slowly dropped to his knees, his arms still clasped around the old man, and took in his scent of cinnamon and coffee.
“Can I do anything for you?” Dante asked, quietly.
“No... I have everything I need…” Solomon smiled at him and squeezed his hand.
“Will you miss us?”
Solomon put his arm around Dante. “I'm going to be so close to you, Dante. So close, it will be like a tight hug. Tighter than I have the strength for now. So don't worry.”
“I don't know how Uncle Harwood and Mrs. Brewer and I will make do without you. We'll all miss you. The tenants will miss you. They all love you. But, I think... I will miss you the most, Solomon.”
Solomon turned to Dante and looked at him tenderly with his old, watery eyes. “I will not be far. When you miss me, just imagine that I am out in the fields with the sheep. I’ll be there, watching you. Watching you enjoy life.”
“How could I enjoy it?” Dante asked honestly. “Without you. You don't have to die, yet.”
Solomon looked compassionately at him. “When your parents died, you were very young. That was years ago, but they have been watching over you ever since. When I die, you can be sad, but don't be too sad. That's no good. You have to take care of everyone here. They are counting on you. As your uncle has impressed upon you – you're a Wortham.”
Dante nodded and wiped his eye.
Solomon turned and looked up towards the sky. The rain was passing. “And I won’t be the only one watching you. God is always with you, and He loves you more than I can. And I love you very much, Dante.
But, as the veils thins for me, I can see how much He loves us. God… In His Trinity of Love… is our father, friend, lover, and advocate. He is faithful beyond what we have imagined.” He continued to muse. “We are to have faith in God in times of weakness and in times of strength. When we are weak, He is strong. And we think we are strong until we come face to face with something weak. A strong man is faint to face weakness. You can't deny human weakness. But it is not something to be ashamed of. God is strong, and we depend upon Him. He is endeared to us as a father is to a child. Realize it as soon as you can, and call upon Him wherever you go. Develop that relationship, that friendship with Him, and when it's your time to die you will find that you are simply going home.”
Dante looked up at Solomon. Any bit of fear left the old man's face, and he looked enveloped in the deepest of peace as if he were going to spend an evening with the closest of friends. A new understanding of why he was so calm came to Dante. He felt like he was just now understanding it.
Dante sat down in his seat again and gently took Solomon's hand. Solomon looked over at him with a loving, fatherly look. Dante remembered that look for the rest of his life.
They sat in silence as night descended upon the town and the stars came out. Then in a low, quiet voice Solomon began to murmur a hymn. Dante closed his eyes and listened. It was very low and deep, barely audible. Even hoarse but gentle. It was joined by crickets chirping in the distance.
When Solomon stopped singing, all became quiet. Dante opened his eyes and looked at Solomon. He was bathed in moonlight, and his eyes were shining from something Dante could not see. And, in that moment, he knew everything Solomon said to be true.
- The Sound That Never Ceased, copyright by Marina Baldwin
Musings, thoughts, and story.