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Beggar's End

From back streets, alleys and hedgerows they came, all sorts of people with children and dogs filling the Chapel like a hall of fame; the smell in the air had a whiff of bogs. The best beggar in Worcester, that was Jack a man of the street to be laid to rest, no family to grieve, no mourners in black. Some he had cheated, others could attest they had learned from him street craft to survive, receiving and sharing what came their way. I read from St Luke how all turned aside of those invited to the feast that day. I gave them a welcome in Jesus' name for coming to share the Jack that they knew. It wasn't a banquet, but all the same we gathered at the grave to ballyhoo. A tipsy guy struggled to announce he was known to them all as Steady Jack. "Steady as you go!" his comrades pronounced. A young Rastafarian kept us on track with a wistful melody on his flute, gathered for the committal packed in close. Many an improvised personal tribute was tossed into the grave for Jack's repose: besides clods of soil a can of Guinness, a bottle upended, several butt ends, a home made wreath dropped in as a witness limp but sincere to Jack's coffin descends. To pay its respects an old dog came forward, peered in, then curled up on a grave nearby. Once the hole was filled and Jack was covered expletives were uttered to satisfy feelings deep within. Then dancing began with bongo drums which continued till dusk. Standing aside with much to understand as cemetery staff completed their task, I found respectful silence was broken by fresh conversation of what we'd seen, rituals of death uncommonly potent shared and displayed with nothing routine.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018

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