by Erika Byrne-Ludwig

When I'm gone, don't cry for me. I'll still converse with you in my own way. You won't see me anymore. I won't see you anymore. In some mysterious way we both will remember each other's image, you of me, I of you.

As it so happens we're here only for a certain time. Short, long, it depends. Do you know I'm turning 90 this year? Quite a milestone, don't you think? My end is imminent. I feel it. I'm very frail now. You, on the other hand, are so strong. Just look at your sturdy build: what a muscular specimen you are. No, I shouldn't worry about you. You'll manage quite well knowing that I'll be watching over you somehow.

This is what I've organised for the days to come: some sort of a will, you might call it. A small gnome kingdom where you'll be happy, I can assure you. Streams and ponds with fishermen your size, sports and games and many more miniature pastimes. You'll find yourself quite at ease with a variety of forest elves, pixies and garden fairies spread out among gardens and bushes. A different world from the one you know here, a more enchanting one for sure.

I visited the place, only recently open to the public, to meet Zeph who's in charge. We've come to some arrangement that he would take you in and put you among all his family, as he called the sanctuary. Think of the number of visitors passing through the gate on the weekends, treading on the narrow paths, stopping and patting gnomes here and there ...

Zeph is a former nurse. This fact alone is reassuring. He'd obviously have the competence to look after the sick and the injured. I noticed a gnome with a broken hand, another with only one arm. Remember when the wind blew you down last year and your foot got chipped and scraped on a rock? It's a detail I also mentioned to Zeph who'll give you special care.

Next Sunday we'll both go. I'll introduce you to him. He's eager to meet you. I've given him your name which prompted a funny blink. He'll engrave it on a flat pebble, attach it to a fine chain for you to wear round your neck. You'll be standing there among the daisies next to six other gnomes of different colours and clothing. Can you imagine how exciting that will be: living in a multicultural gnome society? Shall I tell you a secret? There is even a clown among the gnomes and of all things three trolls. True. I saw them sitting near the chessboard, pretending to know all the ins and outs of the game. At this stage, my only worry is that you might get overwhelmed with so much entertainment.

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My time has come. I've polished you. You look great, me old china! Zeph is already looking forward to placing you in your new spot where he's put a round stone for you to stand on firm and dry off the ground. The other residents have been told and are curious about you. I wouldn't be surprised if Zeph organised a small welcome party just for you. I've heard of him doing it for new arrivals. Before I leave you there, I'll remind him not to let you be covered with moss in the cold winters as your colours must remain vibrant.

I can see intrigued eyes all around. It's a day to celebrate indeed. This evening when I have dinner I'll be thinking of you and sharing my meal with you, my dear Svenlill. I'll put a cheerful piece of music on and hope you'll hear it. Our two minds will meet and commune with each other, I have no doubts about it. Then I'll walk in to the garden, slowly, slowly with my walking stick, where you used to stand under the banksia, and give you a small trembling curtsy in memory of the lovely gnomely joys you gave me.