For many years, The Old Man and the Child travelled together until one day they came to the edge of a lake. By now, the Child had come to understand much and his heart was full. His steps had grown weary.
“Old Man, I am tired.” he said, “I must rest.”
The Old Man looked at him. In him he read the many stories he had lived. He saw the child full of questions and the young man faltering on the path of his choices, his heart afraid of breaking. He listened to the father comfort his children at the fall of darkness and nurture their growing; then watched him let them go, to fly along paths he could not follow, like butterflies at summer’s end. He remembered the man growing older, wracked by grief and searching for understanding; he remembered when time finally allowed him to find comfort in acceptance. He settled the Child into a blanket of his memories and sat him down at the side of the waters.
“Once more,” he said, “You must walk with me.”
The child looked up at him and knew.
“I am afraid,” he whispered. “What will I feel? What will I find?”
The Old Man held his hand and looked deep into him.
“My Child,” he replied, “it will feel like a warm fire on the coldest of days. It will feel like slipping your feet out of your shoes and settling into an old chair that has come to hold your shape like a memory. You will find the peace that comes after hard work and a day spent well. And she is there, child, she is there, waiting. Never again will you ache for the loss of her. My child, you will feel like you are where you are meant to be.”
The Child nodded his understanding.
“And what of you?” he asked. “After travelling so long with you, am I now to go on alone?”
The Old Man smiled.
“I have walked every step with you,” he replied. “I have watched your living and your growing. I have felt all you have felt, I have smiled at your successes and held you when you fell. I have loved you. And now I will take you home.”
And with that, the Old Man raised the Child to his feet one more time, held him close and they set off together. For a long time afterwards, the path the Child had followed glowed like a ribbon of stars through the darkness of night and others who had loved him found peace in its light.