Although the day seemed still, the sound of the sea roared through the little valley on Eilean Beag. Outside the church, small knots of black-clad women stood silently watching. Two coffins were being carried at waist height towards the graveyard; each one riding on a black, wooden carrier, and to each carrier there were eight men. The men moved ever backwards and then forwards as all took a turn to bear the bodies on their last journey.

The shingle rattled and shivered as the coffins were brought to their final home and lowered down on silken cords. The minister took his position between the two graves. Although his final farewell was said for two women, it was only the men who were there to hear it. The wives and daughters of the village remained by the church, waiting for the graves to be filled and the menfolk to begin their walk homewards. For the waiting women, the minister’s last words for the dead were far out of hearing. All they could hear was the ceaseless voice of the sea, but perhaps that voice – familiar since the day of birth – was more fitting than any mortal man’s could ever be.

sweet perfection
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