“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s very lonely to be old.

His older children too grown up to look back, his younger ones too many years away to look ahead. There was very little of life to connect with, but there was still too much of it to die from. Having gone back and forth between the worlds, he lost his roots and sense of belonging. His words empty and nobody listened anyway.

Who cares?” is dangerous to ask without a clear conscience, lest it be followed with irreparable despair.

It was Haul day. Farmers, laymen and their poor wives filled the Master's tiny mosque until it bloated. They gathered to honor the memory of a man long gone, none forgotten. There was a simple prayer, then food and laughter touched hundreds of lips with merriment. For the present, there was enough for all.

Yet it grated on the old man with bitter litost. If only we ceased to compare our achievements with others, how happy we would be. For him, though, who was much impressed by flashy things and fanatic crowds, jealousy had gone beyond sour. He knew that none of those who have gathered would do the same for him when he is gone. Little has he done and shall be remembered for. Short and forgettable his legacy was compared to the magnificent ghost hovering above the crowd.

A woman, wrinkled and wrapped in layers of poverty, approached him. Shyly at first then bolder with clearing memory. She was bewildered and ceased to recognize her codes of propriety. She patted her hands all over him with blessings and gentility.

"Is it you? Is it really you? The Hajji from afar? Have you returned home?"

Beaming from her bright gladness, the old man grew young with certainty. He nodded and knew where he would want his bones to rest finally.

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